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Religious philosophies without a preamble of faith, such as 
those with which we are nowadays acquainted, were unknown 
throughout the Middle Ages. To mediaeval philosophers of 
the various creeds, religion was not an outworn survival of primi- 
tive times, which, with the magic wand of philosophy, they 
tried to transform into something serviceable. Nor was it to 
them a peculiar kind of human experience, which, by philosophic 
probing into the mysterious workings of the subnormal or super- 
normal human mind, they hoped to track down to its hidden 
sources. Nor, again, was religion to them a floating wreckage 
of an ancient term, gutted out of its original contents, which, in 
accordance with the salvage-laws of language, they appropriated 
and used as a designation for their own particular brands of 
philosophy. It was to them a certain set of inflexible principles, 
of a divinely revealed origin, by which philosophy, the product 
of erring human reason, had to be tested and purged and puri- 
fied. What these principles were, how in the light of them 
philosophy for the first time was rewritten, and how also for 
the first time the principles themselves were recast in a philo- 
sophic mould — this is the burden of the present study. 

In a previous study, we tried to show how the entire seventeen- 
century-old philosophic structure raised upon the principles of 
a common preamble of faith was overthrown by Spinoza. When 
that study, The Philo so fhy of Sfinoza^ was published in 1934, 
we conceived the idea of working out more fully the background 
of some of the problems dealt with in Spinoza^s philosophy. 
Starting with one problem and working backwards and sideways, 
we gradually managed to draw into our puxview all of its major 
problems, treating of them in their historical development, 
through mediaeval Latin and Hebrew philosophy, from the 


thirteenth to the seventeenth century; back of that, through 
Arabic Moslem and Jewish philosophy, from the eighth to the 
thirteenth century; and back of that, through the Church 
Fathers, through Philo, and through classical Greek philosophy. 
The outcome of this effort will be published in a series of books 
under the general title Structure and Growth of Philosophic 
Systems from Plato to Spinoza. The present two-volume study 
constitutes the second book of the series. Other studies on 
philosophers following Philo, as well as a general introductory 
study on Greek philosophy, to the latter of which occasional 
references are made in the footnotes of this book, will appear 
at reasonably short intervals. A revised and expanded edition 
of the two volumes on Spinoza will complete the series. 

Primarily this is a study of Philo, and as such it is an attempt 
to build up, out of innuendoes, a systematic structure of his 
thought and also to piece together, out of allusions and implica- 
tions, the story of its growth. But the work is also designed to 
serve as a general prolegomenon to the major problems of reli- 
gious philosophy for the seventeen centuries following Philo. 
The structure of the problems as herein presented will provide 
a general framework for the same problems as they appear in 
the works of later philosophers. The texts from various sources 
brought together in the story of their growth will furnish the 
most fundamental texts which will come into play in the sub- 
sequent history of these problems. The section in each chapter 
of this book under the heading “Conclusion, Influence, Antici- 
pation” furnishes a brief forecast of the general lines of de- 
velopment of the essential points of the Philonic philosophy in 
later philosophies down to Spinoza. In the volumes to follow, 
the story of this development will receive a fuller and more 
formal treatment. 

The preamble of faith with which the philosophy of Philo 
begins, though no longer universally accepted unchallenged. 



has not completely disappeared. It is still the preamble of the 
living philosophy of the greater part of mankind. At the present 
time, under the name of one of the most distinguished of me- 
diaeval Christian exponents of Philonic philosophy, a modern- 
ized version of that philosophy, in its metaphysical as well as 
in its ethical and social teachings, based upon the same principles 
of the same old preamble of faith, is ably defended by an organ- 
ized school of thought. While it is to be admitted that for one 
who believes, or is willing to believe, in the principles of the 
old preamble of faith, it is no more diifhcult to build up and 
defend a Philonic type of philosophy at the present time than 
it was for many a century in the past, we have not attempted 
here to modernize Philonic philosophy nor have we dealt with 
the attempts of others at its modernization. The purpose of 
this book has been to delineate and depict the philosophy of 
Philo as it shaped itself in his own mind and in its own setting 
and to indicate briefly how in its main features it was the most 
dominant force in the history of philosophy down to the seven- 
teenth century. We have not touched upon its fortunes after 
that century nor upon the story of its resurgence in recent times. 

The peculiar literary form in which the works of Philo are 
written has made him the subject of a variety of interpretations. 
In the presentation of our own understanding of him, with the ex- 
ception of a few instances when we have openly taken issue with 
certain views, either generally accepted or individually es- 
poused, and with the further exception of general references to 
the literature on Philo whenever they w^ere necessary either as 
an acknowledgment of indebtedness or for the bibliographical 
guidance of the reader or to indicate the termini at which Phi- 
lonic studies halted and from which our own investigation pro- 
ceeded, we have refrained from entering upon an examination 
or comparison or criticism of the various current interpretations 
of Philo — a subject which, if dealt with at all, is to be dealt 


with elaborately and with all the fullness it deserves. We have 
attempted here a fresh examination of Philo both in his relation 
to his predecessors and with a view to those who came after 
him — and this on the basis of texts which are fully deployed 
and studied. 

For their generous help and advice I am grateful to Pro- 
fessor Arthur Darby Nock, of Harvard; Professor Francis How- 
ard Fobes, of Amherst; Professor Milton Vasil Anastos, of 
Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard; and Professors Richard Peter Mc- 
Keon and Ralph Marcus, both of the University, of Chicago. 
The publication of this work was made possible by the Lucius N. 
Littauer Foundation. 

H. A. W. 



Hellenistic Judaism and Philo 3 

I. Hellenistic Jewish Attitude toward Greek Religion and 

Philosophy 3 

The philosophy of the Hellenized peoples, Alexandrian Jewish 
philosophy, and Egyptian philosophy, 3 . — Scriptural attitude 
toward heathen gods and worship and its manifestation in Alex- 
andrian Jewish literature, 8. — The wisdom of philosophy and 
the wisdom of Scripture, and the superiority of the latter, 17. 

II. Philo on Polytheism, Mythology, and Mysteries ... 27 

Philo’s arraignment of the Greek and Egyptian popular religions, 

27. — His arraignment of mythology, 34. — His arraignment 
of the mysteries, 36. — What use he makes of the terminology of 
popular religion, mythology, and the mysteries, 3S. — Discussion 
of certain views alleging the existence of mysteries among Alex- 
andrian Jews or the influence of the mysteries upon the philos- 
ophy of Philo, 44. 

III. Discordance, Conformity, Apostasy 55 

The three tendencies among the Alexandrian Jews with regard to 
the interpretation of Scripture: (a) Philosophical allegorism, 

55. — (b) Liberal traditionalism, 57. — (c) Extreme allegor- 
ism, 66. — The common underlying unity of these three tend- 
encies, 71. — Three types of apostates in Alexandrian Judaism: 

(a) The weak of flesh, 73. — (b) The socially ambitious, 77. — 

(c) The intellectually uprooted, 78. — General characterization 
of Alexandrian Judaism, 85. 


Handmaid of Scripture 87 

I. Behiftd the Allegorical Method 87 

Classification of Philo’s writings, 87. *~—His Jewish sources: 



Scripture and the question of Philo’s knowledge of Hebrew, S8. 

— His relation to the unwritten Palestinian traditions, 90. — 

His Greek sources, 93. — The literary form of his writings, 94.. 

— Generally accepted opinion as to the nature of Philo’s philos- 
ophy, 97. — Criticism of this opinion, 100. — The application 
of the hypothetico-deductive method of text study to the writings 
of Philo, 103. — Philo as a critic of Greek philosophy and the 
founder of a new philosophy which was to dominate European 
thought for well-nigh seventeen centuries, 107. 

IL The Allegorical Method 115 

The literal and the allegorical interpretation of Scripture, 115. 

— Extent to which these two methods of interpretation were fol- 
lowed by Philo, 1 16. — Allegory and literalism in Philo’s treat- 
ment of the story of the six days of creation, 120. — Alle- 
gory and literalism in his treatment of the historical narratives 
after the story of creation, 123. — Allegory and literalism in his 
treatment of the legislative parts of the Pentateuch, 127. — 
Allegory in Greek philosophy, in Philo, and among the rabbis, 


III. Origin of Scripture and Origin of Philosophy . . . .138 

Difference between Philo and Greek Philosophers in their belief 

as to the origin of their respective texts to which they applied the 
allegorical method of interpretation, 138. — Philo’s three sug- 
gestions as to the origin of Greek philosophy, 140. 

IV. Faith and Reason 143 

Why no subordination of philosophy to popular religion among 
Greek philosophers and why its subordination to Scripture among 
Alexandrian Jewish philosophers, 143. — Origin of the phrase 
describing philosophy as the handmaid of theology, 145, — The 
subordination of philosophy to Scripture as the subordination of 
reason to faith, 15 1. — The limitation of human knowledge; 
faith or revelation as a source of knowledge, 152. 

V. Conclusion, Influence, Anticipation 155 

The conception of philosophy as ancillary to Scripture in post- 
Philonic philosophy, 155. — The post-Philonic use of the alle- 
gorical interpretation of Scripture, 158. — Philo’s three sugges- 
tions as to the origin of Greek philosophy in post-Philonic philos- 
ophy, 160. — Spinoza, 163. 




Scriptural Presuppositions 164 

Philo’s preamble o£ faithj consisting of eight principles, which 
he considered as essential to every true philosophy, 164. — 

(i) Existence of God: identification of those whom Philo de- 
scribes as atheists and of his references to ‘^champions of the 
mind” and ‘‘champions of the senses,” 165. — (2) Unity of 
God: its fourfold meaning, 171. — Why Philo allowed himself 
to apply the term “god” to objects worshiped by pagans as 
deities, 173. — Philo’s attitude toward the theism of the various 
Greek philosophers, 175. — (3) Divine providence, 180. — (4) 
Creation of the world, 180. — (5) Unity of the world, 181. 

— (6) Existence of ideas: native Jewish origin of this belief, 

1 8 1. — (7) Revelation of the Law, 187. — (s) Eternity of the 
Law, 187. — The meaning of Philo’s references to Unwritten 
Law, 188. — The persistence of five of these eight principles as 
a preamble of faith in post-Philonic philosophy, 194. — Spinoza, 



God, the World of Ideas, and the Logos 200 

I. God and the Ideas 200 

God above the ideas, 200. — God not the Platonic idea of the 
good, 201. — Explanation of passages in which the term idea 
would seem to be applied to God, 202. 

II. Ideas 204 

The ideas, in the sense of patterns of things in our created world, 
first conceived as thoughts in the mind of God and then created 
as incorporeal real beings, 204. — Names of God distinguishing 
Him as the sole creator, 210. — List of ideas mentioned by Philo, 

21 1. — Two new ideas introduced by Philo, namely, the idea of 
mind and the idea of soul, 213. — Meaning of the priority of 
the ideas to the world, 214. 

III. Powers 217 

Ideas as patterns and as causes or powers, 217. — Identification 
of the ideas with the term “powers” in Scripture, 21S. — The 
powers ( I ) in the sense of eternal and infinite properties of God 


identical with His essence and (2) in the sense of created incor- 
poreal beings distinct from His essence, 221. — Classification of 
the powers under the two headings of “goodness” and “author- 
ity,” 224. 

IV. The Intelligible World and the Logos 226 

The ideas in the sense of both patterns and powers treated as a 
totality, 226. — The totality of ideas, in the sense of patterns, 
described as constituting an intelligible world, which, like its 
constituent ideas, was, prior to the creation of the visible world, 
first conceived as a thought in the mind of God and then created 
as a real incorporeal being, 227. — The Logos (i) in the sense 
of the mind of God identical with His essence in which the intel- 
ligible world was conceived as a thought and (2) in the sense of 
a created incorporeal being in which the created intelligible 
world is contained as an object of thought in a thinking mind, 

229. — The Logos conceived as a power and as such also as the 
totality of ideas in the sense of powers, 233. — The Logos, as 
the totality of powers, allusively described as combining within 
itself the two contrasting groups of powers, “goodness” and “au- 
thority,” 236. — How Philo difiEers from Plato in the use of the 
term “image,” 238. — Three stages in the existence of the Logos 
and powers, 239. 

V. Relations between God, the Logos, and the Ideas . . 240 

Meaning of Philo’s statement that the intelligible world of ideas 
does not exist in some place, 240. — Interpretation of Philo’s 
parable of a city built by a king, 242. — Meaning of his state- 
ment that the Logos is the place of the intelligible world, 245. — 
Meaning of his statement that God is prior to place and the 
Logos, 247. — Meaning of his application of the term place to 
God, 247. — God as “most generic” 5 the Logos as “the most 
generic of created things”} the ideas as “generic,” 252. 

VI. Logos and Wisdom 253 

Wisdom as the equivalent of Logos, 253. — Various uses of the 
terms Wisdom and Logos in Philo, 258. — Explanation of pas- 
sages in which Philo does not seem to treat of Wisdom and Logos 
as equivalent terms, 258. 

VII. The Instrumentality of the Logos, Powers, and Wisdom 261 
Origin and meaning of the term instrument in its application to 
the Logos, 261. — Origin and meaning of the terms describing 


the instrumentality of Wisdom, 266, —“■Instrument not used by 
Philo in the sense of intermediary: the world as created by God 
directly without intermediaries, 269. — Reason for the creation 
of the ideas, the powers, the intelligible world, the Logos, and 
Wisdom, 271. — Interpretation of a passage which would seem 
to imply that the ideas or powers were u'sed as intermediaries in 
the creation of the world, 274. 

VIII. The Fiction of Intermediaries 282 

The principle of the equivalence of cause and effect in Plotinus, 

282. — How that principle is refuted by mediaeval philosophers, 

283. — How that principle has been erroneously applied to 
Philo, 284. — Wisdom not an intermediary in Jewish tradition, 

286. — Analysis of Wisdom in the Wisdom of Solomon: its three 
stages of existence, 287. 

IX. Conclusion, Influence, Anticipation 289 

Systematic presentation of Philo’s views on ideas, powers, intelli- 
gible world, Logos, and Wisdom, 289. —Logos and ideas in 
post-Philonic philosophy to Spinoza, 293. 


Creation and Structure of the World 295 

(a) Criticism of Aristotle and the Stoics — First argument 
against Aristotle, 295. — Second argument against Aristotle, 

299. — Argument against the Stoics, 299. 

(b) Platons Timaeus and the Book of Genesis — Vagueness of 
Philo’s statements with regard to the preexistent matter out of 
which the world was created and the question whether that pre- 
existent matter was itself eternal or created, 300. — Analysis of 
the story of creation in the Timaeus and the three points in it 
which are doubtful, 303. — Philo’s solutions of these three doubt- 
ful points, and the passages in which he indicates that the pre- 
existent matter was created, 305. — Philo’s interpretation of the 
story of the six days of creation in the Book of Genesis, 309. — 
Philo’s conception of the structure of the World, 312. — Crea- 
tion an act of divine will 5 God could have created a different 
kind of world 5 in what sense the world is said to be indestructi- 
ble, 315. 

(c) Place^ TimCy Eternity — The use made by Philo of the 
various philosophic definitions of place and time, 317. Eter- 


nity as the idea of time, 320. — No eternal generation in Philo, 

(d) Conclusion j Influence ^ Anticipation: Five points in 
Philo’s theory of creation and their history in post>Philonic 

philosophy to Spinoza, 322. 


The Immanent Logos, Laws of Nature, Miracles . . 325 

I. Immanent Logos 325 

Philo’s immanent Logos not the same as the universal soul of 
Plato and of the Stoics, 325, — Discussion of Philo’s statements 
on the immanent Logos as the cause of the laws of nature j his 
use of the term “fate” 5 the world as an “imitation” of the pre- 
existent Logos and as a “raiment” of the immanent Logos, 328. 

11 . Laws of Nature 332 

The three laws of nature discernible in Philo : ( i ) The law of 
opposites: the immanent Logos as Cutter or Divider, 332. — 

(2) The law of the harmony of the opposites, 337. — (3) The 
law of the perpetuity of the species, 342. — Immanent powers 
as the equivalent of the immanent Logos, 343. — Meaning of 
Philo’s use of the phrase “the mind of the world” or “the soul 
of the world” as a description of God, 345. 

III. Miracles 347 

The free miracle-working God of Scripture and the law-bound 
God of Plato, 347. — Natural and allegorical explanations of 
the miracles recorded in Scripture not a denial of their histor- 
icity, 350* 

IV. Conclusion, Influence, Anticipation 356 

Summary of Philo, 356. — Laws of nature and miracles in post- 
Philonic philosophy to Spinoza, 357. 


Souls, Angels, Immortality 360 

I. Living Beings 360 

Why the immanent Logos is not called by Philo the mind or soul 
of the world, 360. — Boundary line between besouled and soul- 



less being-s, 361. — Whether the stars have souls, 363.— Three 
classes of living beings, 366. 

II. Unbodied Souls or Angels 366 

Why some souls do not descend into bodies, 366. — Unbodied 
souls identified with philosophic demons and scriptural angels, 

367. — The abode of angels and their constituent substance, 369. 

— Function of angels, 370. ' — Angels as a special kind of imma- 
nent powers and called powers, 372. — Why angels are necessary, 

375. — Application of the term Logos to angels, 376. — Alle- 
gorical interpretation of angels in Scripture not a denial of their 
reality, 379. — Beneficial, punitive, and evil angels, 381. — 

Evil angels as the fallen angels, 384. 

III. Animals and the Irrational Soul of Man 385 

Lower animals and their soul; irrational souls as images of the 
idea of soul, 385. — Creation of the irrational soul of man, 

386. — Constituent substance of the irrational soul and its facul- 

ties, 387. 

IV. The Rational Soul of Man 389 

The rational soul as the image of the idea of mind, 389. — In- 

corporeality of the rational soul, its indivisibility, and its fac- 
ulties, 392. — Reciprocal relation between the rational and 
the irrational soul, 392. — Application of the term Logos to the 
rational soul, 393. — Other terms by which the rational soul is 
described, 393. 

V. Immortality of the Soul 395 

Use of Platonic terms in Philo’s discussion of immortality, 395. 

— The search for scriptural proof-texts as sources for the belief 
in immortality and the text adduced by Philo, 396. — Question 
as to the place to which the immortal souls return: the three 
views reported by Philo, 398. — Philo’s own view, 401. — 
Traditional terms of resurrection interpreted as meaning im- 
mortality j and hence immortality spoken of as a palingenesis or 
new birth, 404, — Immortality as a divine grace and hence in- 
dividual and not universal, 406. — Philo’s reference to a spuri- 
ous kind of immortality, which is universal, by the side of genu- 
ine immortality, which is individual, 410. 

VI. Conclusion, Influence, Anticipation 413 

Summary of Philo’s views on the topics of this chapter, 413. — 


Chief characteristics of the discussion of these topics by post- 
Philonic philosophers, 416 — and Spinoza, 419. 


Free Will 424 

I. Miracles and Freedom 424 

The immanent Logos in the world and the rational soul in man, 

424. — Struggle between the rational and the irrational soul in 
man, 426. — Analogy between Plato and Philo on the domin- 
ance of law in the world and on the struggle of the two souls in 
man, 427. — Difference between Plato and Philo on the power 
of God over the laws of nature in the world: Miracles, 428. — 
Difference between Plato and Philo on the power of the rational 
soul over the irrational soul in man: Free will, 430. 

II. The Choice of Good and Evil 432 

Responsibility and punishment in Plato : his use of the term vol- 
untary, 432. — Responsibility and punishment in Philo : the term 
voluntary as used by him, 435. — Explanation of involuntary 
sin by Philo, 438. — Philo’s conception of divine grace as an 

auxiliary cause in man’s free choice of the good, 441. — Divine 
grace in Hellenistic and Palestinian Judaism, 449. — Two types 
of divine grace, 450. — Man’s free will and God’s foreknowl- 
edge, 455. 

III. Conclusion, Influence, Anticipation 456 

Summary of Philo’s views on the topic of this chapter, 456. ■ — 
Recurrence of these views in post-Philonic philosophy, 458. — 
Spinoza, 461. 






1. Hellenistic Jewish Attitude toward 
Greek Religion and Philosophy 

With a single exception, none of the peoples who after the 
conquests of Alexander began to participate in Greek philoso- 
phy contributed anything radically new to it. All they did 
was to master its teachings and furnish teachers. The Phoe- 
nician population of Citium in Cyprus furnished Zeno, the 
founder of Stoicism; Sidon furnished another Zeno, who 
became the head of the Epicureans; Carthage furnished 
Hasdrubal, who under the name of Clitomachus became the 
head of the New Academy; the Hellenistic population of 
Ascalon in Palestine furnished another head of the New 
Academy by the name of Antiochus; Tyre furnished Dio- 
dorus, who became the head of the Peripatetic school; and 
Apamea in Syria furnished Posidonius, who established a 
Stoic school in Rhodes, the only Greek philosophic school 
which flourished at that time outside of Athens. But all of 
these, though coming from the new centers of Greek culture, 
and perhaps also of non-Greek origin, were thoroughly Hel- 
lenized, not only in language but also in religion, and they 
appear on the scene of history as Greeks, carrying on the 
traditions of Greek philosophers. The schools which they 
came to preside over, and, in the case of Zeno, the new school 
which he founded, were Greek schools, flourishing in the 
ancient seat of Greek civilization. The gods, the myths, and 
the religious and political institutions which as philosophers 
they had occasion to take as the subject of their speculations 
were all the same as those of their predecessors from Thales 



to Aristotle. If certain vestiges of foreign beliefs and certain 
undertones of foreign thought are sometimes said to be dis- 
cerned in their teaching, they themselves had no conscious- 
ness of them; and in fact it takes all the skill and imagination 
and insight of searching scholarship to get even a scent of 
their presence. The single exception was the Jewish popula- 
tion in Alexandria. This Alexandrian Jewish population 
produced out of its midst a school of philosophers who 
consciously and deliberately and systematically set about 
remaking Greek philosophy according to the pattern of a 
belief and tradition of an entirely different origin. 

The rise of that school and the continuity of its existence 
for about three centuries, from the translation of the Penta- 
teuch into Greek (c, 260 b.c.) to the end of the activity of 
Philo (c. 40 A.D.),^ was made possible by the nature of the 
dominant element, if not the basic stock, of the Jewish popu- 
lation in Alexandria and by the nature of the social economy 
of the Alexandrian Jewish community. That dominant ele- 
ment came from Palestine at a time when Judaism in its 
native home had already been molded by the teaching and 
preaching and disciplinary training of the Scribes into that 
particular form which ultimately gave rise to Pharisaism. 
From its native home this dominant element of the Jewish 
population in Alexandria had brought with it not only a 
Scripture and a tradition, but also a knowledge of that 
Scripture and traditidn, an ordered mode of life and thought 
based upon them, and a firm resolve to preserve that mode 
of life and thought under whatever conditions it might find 
itself. Conditions in Alexandria were such as to favor the 
maintenance and preservation of this mode of life and 
thought. Politically the Jews of Alexandria had the right to 
organize a community of their own within which they were 

* Cf. below, p. 94. 


free to live according to their own religion. Socially they lived 
in compact masses within certain areas of the city, which 
provided them with the necessary facilities for the practice 
of their religion. Economically, though the community as 
a whole depended upon the outside non-Jewish environment 
for the main source of its wealth, the majority of Jews within 
the community gained their living there, without being 
forced to seek occupation among non-Jews outside. Cultu- 
rally, though one generation after their settlement in Alex- 
andria the Jews had adopted Greek speech, they remained 
a separate group, with a system of education and intellectual 
life entirely their own.“ Constant communication with the 
home country in Palestine had kept Alexandrian Judaism, 
despite the inevitable rise of certain local changes, from be- 
coming completely separated from its original source. 

Now the political and social conditions which enabled the 
Jews to preserve themselves as a special religious entity in 
Alexandria were enjoyed also by all the other groups which 
made up the Alexandrian population, and at least one group, 
the native Egyptians, with a religious mode of life firmly 
established and with a highly organized class of learned 
priests, attempted also to develop a religious philosophy of 
its own, though whatever is known of it comes to us only in- 
directly. Externally the Egyptian and the Jewish religious 
philosophies would seem to be alike, both of them, seem- 
ingly in imitation of the Stoics, attempting to apply philoso- 
phy to their respective religions and justifying these attempts 
of theirs by claiming, each of these two groups for itself, to 
have been the originators of that philosophy.^ But the con- 
ceptions which the Egyptians and Jews had of their own 
religions were so fundamentally different that the philos- 
ophies developed by them from the application of Greek 

* Cf. below, pp. 78 ff. 5 Cf- below, p, I41. 



philosophy to their respective religions also proved to be 
different, the one being simply an adoption of Greek phi- 
losophy; the other being a transformation of it into some- 
thing new. 

Egyptians, like all the heathen nations of antiquity, started 
with the belief that their own gods were different only in 
name from the gods of other peoples with whom they came 
in contact and that the worship of their own gods was differ- 
ent only in form from the worship of other gods by other 
peoples. From the writings of Herodotus we learn that even 
before the time of Alexander Egyptian priests claimed that 
certain Greek gods were borrowed from the Egyptians, “ and 
these priests probably also shared in the belief, expressed by 
Herodotus himself, that certain forms of religious worship, 
including the mysteries, were similarly borrowed by the 
Greeks from the Egyptians.^ When, therefore, later, with 
the establishment of Alexandria as a center of Hellenistic 
civilization, Egyptian priests attempted, in imitation of the 
Stoics, to apply Greek philosophy to their own religion, this 
attempt was accompanied by a similar attempt to syncretize 
their own religion with the religion of the Greeks. The re- 
ligious philosophy resulting therefrom was therefore bound to 
display no essential difference from the religious philosophy 
of the Stoics of that time. This conclusion with regard to 
the nature of Egyptian philosophy, which must inevitably 
follow from a consideration of these known facts in the case, 
lends credence to the account given of it later by Plutarch. 
From that account we gather that the starting point of the 
philosophy of the Egyptians was the syncretization of their 
own religion with that of the Greeks. Their own gods were 
identified with Greek gods; * their own stories about their 

^ Herodotus, II, 4, 42, 50. s Idem, II, 51; II, 171. 

^ Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride, chs. 9, 354 c-d; 13, 356 b; 34, 364 d; 61, 375 f- 
376 A. 


gods were identified with Greek mythology; ’ and their own 
worship of the gods in the form of mysteries was identified 
with the Greek mysteries.* Having thus syncretized their 
own religion with that of the Greeks; and having also laid 
claim to the origin of Greek philosophy, they next tried, in 
conscious imitation of the Stoics, systematically to give a 
philosophic meaning to their own religion. The chief Egyp- 
tian god Ammon becomes to them, of course, nothing but 
the Greek Zeus, and consequently, like Zeus among the 
Stoics, he is nothing but the universe.® The Egyptian god- 
dess Isis is nothing but the Greek word for “knowledge,” and 
her temple, which is called Iseion, is nothing but a combina- 
tion of two Greek words meaning the knowledge of true be- 
ing.*® The priests of Isis are not mere supervisors of religious 
worship; they are philosophers, for “the true priest of Isis 
is he who, when he has legitimately received what is set forth 
in the ceremonies connected with these gods, uses reason in 
investigating and in studying the truth contained therein.” ” 
The laws relating to priests, such as the shaving of their 
heads, their wearing of linen garments, their restrictions in 
matters of diet, their abstention from wine, and all the 
sacred and religious rites which are prescribed for them, have 
in them “nothing that is irrational or fabulous or prompted 
by superstition, as some believe,” but they contain either 
some “moral and practical values” or some “refinement of 
history or natural science.” The stories about the gods, 
such as their wanderings, dismemberments, and many ex- 
periences of that sort, are not to be taken literally; ** they are 
like similar Greek stories about the gods,*® and they are to 
be given explanations “not far unlike the explanations which 

’ Ihid., chs. 45, 360 E-40, 367 E. “ Ibid., ch. 3, 35a 0. 

* Ibid., chs. 47, 361 D f .; 68, 378 b f. “ Ibid., ch. 8, 353 e. 

’ Ibid., ch. g, 354 c-D. Cf. below, p. 176. « Ibid., ch. 11, 355 b ff. 

“ Ibid., ch. 4, 351 P-354A. ” Ibid., chs. 45-40. 



the Stoics used to give of the gods.” To take these stories 
literally and refuse to explain them philosophically is to 
think impiously about matters religious.*® Such philosophic 
explanations are to be applied to every belief and practice, 
including the worship of animals. The Egyptian animal wor- 
ship, properly understood, is no more mere folly than the 
Greek idol worship. The latter, in its true meaning, does not 
imply that “the bronze, the painted, and the stone effigies” 
are gods themselves; it takes them only as “statues of the 
gods and dedications in their honor.” *’ So also Egyptian 
animal worship does not imply that the animals themselves 
are gods; they are to be taken only to represent various 
powers of God.*® 

The conception of their own religion on the part of the 
Alexandrian Jews, trained as they were in Scripture as in- 
terpreted by tradition, was fundamentally different. The 
term monotheism by which Judaism is generally described 

*5 Ihid.^ ch. 40, 367 c. Ibid.^ ch. 68, 378 b. 

*7 Ihid.^ ch. 70, 379 c-D. 

Ihld *^ ch. 74, 380 F ff. 

On Egyptian philosophy, see also Diogenes, I, 10-12, drawing upon Manetho 
and Hecataeus. Not much is known directly about the attempts on the part of the 
Egyptians to give a Greek philosophic interpretation to their religion, and from the 
little that is known it may be inferred that it was not widespread. But undoubtedly 
such a philosophic interpretation was attempted by a few Egyptians, and it may be 
assumed that on the whole the attempt followed along the lines indicated by 
Plutarch. With regard to Plutarch, it must be added that his account of the Stoic 
interpretation of the Egyptian religion is generally taken to be an invention of his 
own, just as is the later Neoplatonic interpretation of it by lamblichus. This 
analogy between the two, however, does not seem to us to be correct. In the case 
of Plutarch, there is reason to believe that he was actually reporting the teachings of 
certain philosophic priests in Egypt. The works of writers on Egypt, such as Apion 
and Hecataeus, are generally considered as sources used by Plutarch. Moreover, 
an Egyptian priest of the first century a.d., Chaeremon, is said to have recognized 
the Stoic philosophical teachings in the priestly traditions of the Egyptian religion. 
Cf. W. Otto, Priester und ^empel im hellenistischen Agypten^ 1908, II, pp. 215-224; 
F. Cumont, Les religions orientales dans le paganisme romain \ 1929, p. 212, n. 24; 
p. 82; p. 238, nn. 48, 49; A. H. Gardiner, ** Philosophy (Egyptian),” Encyclopaedia 
of Religion and Ethics ^ IX, p. 859. 


may perhaps, in its positive sense, as expressing a belief in 
the unity of God, lead to endless discussions as to whether 
that belief was really peculiar to the Jews or as to whether 
the Jews were really the originators of that belief. But the 
term in its negative sense, as expressing a unity of attitude — ' 
a special kind of attitude — toward other gods, is admittedly 
to be assumed as something peculiar to Judaism and as some- 
thing by which it was distinguished from all other religions 
in antiquity. 

This special attitude of the Jews toward other gods has a 
twofold aspect. On the one hand, the Scripture- trained Jew 
unconsciously approached other gods with the attitude of a 
student of comparative religion. Scripture had indeed in- 
stilled into him the belief in one God, but he knew that other 
peoples also believed in the existence of gods, and the same 
general Hebrew term Elohim is used in Scripture to designate 
both the Jewish God and the gods of the other nations. The 
Jewish God is worshiped in a special place, called “house” 
or “sanctuary,” but so also are the gods of other nations 
worshiped by their adherents in a place described as“house”*‘ 
or “sanctuary.” ” The Jewish God is worshiped by means 
of various kinds of sacrifices offered on altars by men called 
priests, and by means also of libation or incense, but so also 
are worshiped the gods of other nations, and the same 
Hebrew terms for sacrifice and altar and priest and libation 
and incense are used to describe these various forms of wor- 
ship whether they are offered to the Jewish God or to the 
gods of other nations.®* The Jews pray to their God and bow 
down to Him, but so do also other people pray and bow down 
to their gods.®"* On the other hand, however, the Jew was 
also trained by Scripture to approach other gods with the 

■» I Kings 5; ig. “ I Sam. 5: 2. “5 II Kings lo: 19; Jer. 44: 19. 

” Exod. 25; 8. ” Isa. 16: 12. « Isa. 16; 12; II Kings 19:37. 



attitude of a dogmatic theologian who is sure he knows what 
is true and what is false in religion. Indeed, he knew that 
other people too have gods and their gods are known by the 
same name as the Jewish God, but he was enjoined not to 
have any of those other gods before his. God and he was 
also told that all these other gods are “no- gods,” they are 
“lying vanities,” they are things of “nought,” they are 
“falsehood,”*’ they are “lies,” they are “dead,” they 
are carcasses, 5* they are “worthless,” they are “dumb 
idols.” Indeed he knew that other gods are also worshiped, 
and in a manner not unlike that in which his own God is wor- 
shiped, but he was enjoined not to bow himself down to them 
nor to serve them,^’ he was ordered to break down their 
altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and burn their graven 
images with fire,^^ and he was told that sacrificing and offer- 
ing incense to them was wrong and that praying to them 
brings no help or salvation. 3* 

This twofold view marked the attitude of the Scripture- 
trained Jews toward all the religions with which they came 
in contact in the ancient world. With the example of Scrip- 
ture before them they were not afraid to make use in the 
description of their own religion of terms used in the descrip- 
tion of other religions, but whatever common terms they 
used, the difference was never blurred for them between 
truth and falsehood in religious belief and right and wrong 
in religious worship. For the understanding of the nature of 
Judaism throughout its history, and especially during the 
Hellenistic period, this twofold aspect of its attitude toward 

“5 Exod. 20*. 3, 
Isa. ' ij : IQ. 
Jer. 2: 5. 
Jer. 10: 14. 
3 ® Amos 2:4. 
Ps. 106: 28. 

33 Lev. 26:30. 

33 Jer. 2:11; 16: 19. 

34 Hab. 2; 18. 

35 Exod. 20: 4. 

3<5 Deut. 7: 5. 

« Lev. 17:7; Jer. 44:3. 
3 * Isa. 45:21. 



other religions is of the utmost importance. Those who seem 
to see evidence of religious syncretization in every use of a 
pagan term by a Hellenistic Jew simply overlook this one 
important aspect in the attitude of Judaism toward other 

The gods with which the God in Scripture was contrasted 
were the gods of those neighboring peoples with whom the 
ancient Jews came in contact. Many of these gods are only 
named, without any further identification, and it is left to 
scholarship to trace them to the various neighboring coun- 
tries mentioned in Scripture. Some of them are specifically 
identified. There is Baal Zebub of Acron,^’ Dagon of the 
Philistines,''" Chemosh of the Moabites,'*' Ashtoreth of the 
Zidonians,''" Milcom of the Ammonites,''^ and Rimmon of 
Aram.'*'* There are also vague references to “the abomina- 
tion of the Egyptians,” ‘*5 “the idols of Egypt,” “the pil- 
lars of Beth-shemesh, that is in the land of Egypt,” “the 
houses of the gods of Egypt,” ■** “other gods in the land of 
Egypt,”'"’ “Egypt with her gods,”®" and “the devices of 
Egypt,” and allusions to the proper name of one Egyptian 
deity are to be found in the expressions “Amon mi-No”®* 
and “No Amon.” No reference, however, is to be found in 
Scripture to Greek gods. But with the establishment of the 
Jewish community in Alexandria, living there side by side 
with Greeks and Egyptians, the Jews became acquainted 
with the names of altogether new “other gods” who are not 
mentioned at all in Scripture and with the proper names of 

39 II Kings I : a. 

I Sam. 5:7. 

II Kings 23:13. 
4a Ihid, 

^3 Ibid, 

II Kings 5: 18. 
Exod. 8 : 22. 

Isa. 19:1. 

47 Jer. 43: 13. 

48 Jer. 43: 13. 

49 Jer. 44: 8 . 
s® Jer. 46: 25. 

5 ^ Ezek. 20:7 (LXX). 
s* Jer. 46; 25. 

53 Nahum 3: 8. 



the “other gods” of Egypt which Scripture only vaguely 
refers to. The Scripture-inspired attitude toward other gods, 
in its twofold aspect, was now extended to the new form of 
heathenism with which the Alexandrian Jews became ac- 
quainted. On the one hand, they did not hesitate to borrow 
Greek terms from popular Greek religion and apply them to 
their own religion, but, on the other hand, the application of 
these Greek religious terms to their own religion did not alto- 
gether obliterate for them the difference between these two 
religions. In the Greek translation of the Bible, when the 
translators came to translate the various Hebrew terms for 
God, they did not attempt to coin new Greek terms; they 
borrowed terms already used in Greek religion. Elohim be- 
comes 0e6s, even though the Greek term had already various 
connotations in Greek religion. Adonai and Jehovah, the 
latter of which was pronounced by Jews Adonai, are trans- 
lated ifOpios, Lord, even though in Greek literature that term 
is used as an epithet of various gods.*"* Shaddai becomes 
wavTOKpaTcap, almighty, even though, again, in Greek litera- 
ture that term is used of Hermes.^^ The expression ha-El ha- 
Gadol^'^ the great God, is translated by b debs b piyas, even 
though in Greek the epithet “great” is applied to various 
gods.*’ The expression El Elyon,^^ the most high God, is 
translated by 6 ^eos 6 inf/iaTos, even though in Greek that ex- 
pression is used of Zeus.*’ Similarly in the translation of 

54 Cf. Corpus Inscript ionum Graecarum (A. Boeckh), Index III, under icOpios; G. 
Kittel, Hheologischcs Worterhuch zum Neuen "Testament, s.v., Ill, 1045--1047. 

ss Anthologia Falatina, append. 282, cited in Liddell and Scott. 

5 ® Deut. 10; 17. 

57 Cf. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, Index III, under 

s8 Gen. 14: 20; Ps. 78:35. 

59 Cf, Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, Index III, under vyj/iarTov, E. Schurer, 
“Die Juden in bosporanischen Reiche, etc.,” Sitzungsberickte der Berliner Akademie, 
^^975 P* ^09, discusses the application of this expression to Apollo, Attis, and Man- 


Hebrew terms connected with divine worship, such as sanctu- 
ary, altar, sacrifice, incense, libation, sprinkling, laver, votive 
offering, the firstlings or the first-fruits for offering, the Jews 
did not hesitate to borrow terms from the Greek religious 
practices. All of these of course meant some sort of Helleni- 
zation, but a Hellenization in language only; not in religious 
belief or cult. This Hellenization in language quite certainly 
gave to the Jews a wider knowledge of other religions, but it 
did not cause them to change their conception of their own 
religion. It indeed made them acquainted with the fact that 
the Greeks too describe some of their gods as lord, almighty, 
great, and most high, but that did not shake their belief that 
their God alone is the Lord, the Almighty, the Great, and 
the Most High in the true sense of the terms. While with all 
other peoples in the Hellenistic world the adoption of the 
name of a Greek deity for one of their own gods meant a 
religious syncretism, in the case of the Jews it meant only a 
recourse to the convenience of language. In the case of all 
those other peoples, no sooner had they learned Greek than 
they tried to identify their native gods with the Greek gods; 
in the case of the Jews, no sooner had they acquired a knowl- 
edge of Greek than they began to denounce Greek gods and 
Greek religious worship with the same zeal with which the 
prophets had denounced the gods and the religious worship 
of their own Semitic contemporaries and neighbors. 

All the Hellenistic Jewish writers before Philo, or those 
who are reputed to have lived before him, denounce the 
heathenism of their new environment, its polytheism, its 
mythology, and its mysteries. 

Making use of scriptural terminology, these Hellenistic 
Jewish writers denounce polytheism. They are conscious 
of the fact that they are the only people who do not worship 
many gods. “Ail mankind except ourselves believe in the 



existence of many gods.” These many gods whom other 
people worship are no longer those who are mentioned in 
Scripture. They are the new gods worshiped by their new 
neighbors, upon whom they shower the ancient invectives. 
Evidently acquainted with Plato’s view that “the earliest 
men in Greece believed only in those gods in whom many 
foreigners believe today — sun, moon, stars and sky,” in 
condemning the “other gods” of their new environment they 
mention especially those who “deemed either fire or wind or 
swift air or circling stars or raging water or luminaries of 
heaven to be the gods which govern the world.” They 
characterize as “false” the god “Phoebus” ^ and they de- 
nounce as “utterly foolish” the Greek deification of heroes 
and the Egyptian deification of the dead and of kings. 
The stories about those heroes who falsely became gods are 
to them inventions of men, who are referred to by the Pla- 
tonic derogatory term mythmakers {nvOoiro^’fia-avres).^'^ The 
mythical deities are thus to them only deified human beings, 
or more particularly deified dead rulers, and their story is 
therefore recast by them to fit the scriptural story of the dis- 
tribution of mankind and the formation of nations and states 
after the confusion of tongues.*® Reechoing the scriptural 
prophecy that “the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and 
cometh unto Egypt, and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at 

Aristeas, 134. Cratylus 397 c-d. 

Wisdom of Solomon 13:2. 

<*3 Sibylline Oracles IV, 4; cf. V, 324, 326. 

Aristeas, 135-137. 

^3 Wisdom of Solomon 14: 14-16. Cf. A. Erman, Handbook of Egyptian Religion, 
p. 90, and below, p. 31. S. Holmes in his note ad loc., in Charleses Apocrypha and 
Rseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, takes it as a modification of the theory of 
Euhemerus that idolatry arose from the worship of deceased heroes. Cf. also P, 
Heinisch, TOas Buck der Weisheit, ad loc. 

^ Wisdom of Solomon 14: 17-21. Cf. Erman, op. cit., pp. 36-“37. 

Aristeas, 137; cf. mu^otoi6s in Republic II, 377 b. 

Sibylline Oracles III, 105 ff.; cf. Conf. 38, 190. 


His presence,” they prophesy that the Egyptian goddess 
Isis and the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis shall pass away 
at the presence of the immortal GodJ® While, with the ex- 
ample of Scripture before them, they have no objection to 
describing God by general Greek terms for the gods, they 
never apply to God the proper name of any of the Greek 
deities. If Aristeas in his letter is made to say that the God 
worshiped by the Jews is the same as that which the Greeks 
call Zeus it is only because Aristeas is presented as a non-Jew 
and a Stoic philosopher to whom Zeus meant the same as the 
God worshiped by the Jews, “He through whom all things 
are endowed with life and come into being.” 

Then also, using terms borrowed from the Greek transla- 
tion of Scripture, they describe the various forms of idolatry 
practiced among the Greeks and Egyptians in Alexandria 
as “idols” (eiSwXa),^^ ‘^‘dumb (kcc^o.) idols,”^® “vain things” 
“dead things” (vcKpo/),” hand-made things (x^ipo- 
TTol-tiTo.).''^ Having been brought in closer contact with Egyp- 

Isa. 19: 1. 

7 ° Sibylline Oracles V, 484-490. 

7 ^ Aristeas, 15-16. Or, perhaps, in Hellenistic times the term Zeus ceased to be 
the proper name of a god and came to mean '‘chief god,” on which see Roberts- 
Skeat-Nock, "The Gild of Zeus Hypsistos,” Harvard theological Review y 29 (1936), 
p. 59. The same authors also raise the question whether a Jew or Judaizer could use 
the name Zeus as a god, and their answer is: "Possibly; we simply do not know the 
limits of Jewish divagation” {ibid., p. 65, n. 69). Ralph Marcus, in his "Divine 
Names and Attributes in Hellenistic Jewish Literature,” Proceedings of the Ameru 
can Academy for Jewish Research, 3 (1931-32), pp. 43-120, has shown that out of 470 
terms selected from the entire literature, with the exception of Philo, only 130 do 
not occur in the Greek bible, and of these many are merely formal variants of ex- 
pressions which occur in it {ibid., pp. 47-48). No proper name of any deity is 
found among them. 

7= Wisdom of Solomon 14; 12, 

73 HI Macc. 4: 16; cf. dXdXoco-t in Sibylline Oracles IV, 7; III, 30; cf. 

Habakkuk 2: 18. 

74 Sibylline Oracles V, 31; cf. Aristeas, 134. 

7 s Wisdom of Solomon 13: 10; cf. Ps. 106; 28. 

Wisdom of Solomon 14: 8; 13: 10; cf. Septuagint Isa. 21: 9, 



tian religion, they are especially emphatic in their denuncia- 
tion of the Egyptian worship of “beasts and most kinds of 
creeping things and animals,” ” “irrational creeping things 
and wretched animals,” “animals which even their ene- 
mies held in dishonor,” ’’ “serpents,” and “cats.” All 
these seem to be used by them only as an expansion of what 
Scripture refers to vaguely as “the abomination of the 

With their condemnation of polytheism and idolatry they 
also condemn all the evil practices which they believe to 
emanate from them. According to Jewish tradition, the basis 
of all moral evil is idolatry,®* and two of the greatest moral 
evils which are closely connected with idolatry are adultery 
and murder. Reflecting this tradition, the author of the 
Wisdom of Solomon says that “the worship of those unnam- 
able idols is the beginning and cause and end of every evil” ®3 
and that those who worship idols “no longer guard either life 
or purity of marriage, but one slays another treacherously, or 
grieves him by adultery.” ®‘' As an example of murder con- 
nected with idolatry, he speaks of “slaughtering children in 
solemn rites,” an allusion not only to the Moloch worship 
condemned in Scripture but also to one which was common in 
early times among the Greeks and which at the time of this 
author still survived in some modified form.®® As an example 

77 Aristeas, 138. 

7 * Wisdom of Solomon 11:15. 

79 Wisdom of Solomon 12:24. 

Sibylline Oracles III, 30. A similar repulsion at the Egyptian animal wor- 
ship was also felt by Graeco-Latin writers. Cf. F. Cumont, op, cit,y pp, 73^74. 

Sifre Num.y § iii, F, pp. 3ib-32a; H, p. 116. 

Sijray AharCy Pere^ 4, p. 8ic; Jer, Pe^ahy I, i, I5d. 

^3 Wisdom of Solomon 14: 24. 14: 23. 

In this verse, unlike in 12: 5, the reference is not exclusively to Moloch. Cf. 
W. J. Deane*s note in his edition of fhe Book of Wisdoniy ad loc,; P. Heinisch, Das 
Buck der Weisheity ad, loc, cf. also Clement of Alexandria, Cohortatio ad GenteSy c. 
Ill, PG,8, 124 cE 


of adultery connected with idolatry the same writer mentions 
“celebrating secret mysteries (Kpicjna nviTTripia), or holding 
frantic revels of strange ordinances” — an allusion to the 
Dionysiac orgies connected with the mysteries of Eleusis.*^ 
In the Third Book of Maccabees, initiation into mysteries is 
spoken of as being synonymous with the abandonment of 

But in the course of time, among the Scripture- trained 
Jews in Alexandria there appeared those who besides an ac- 
quaintance with the heathenish worship and practices of 
their neighbors learned also to read Greek, and among the 
books they read were not only Homer and Hesiod but also 
the works of the philosophers. And of these philosophers 
— even of the earliest among them, to say nothing of the 
Stoics — they could not help getting the impression that they 
had risen above the idol-worshiping and abomination-loving 
heathen. Not idols did these philosophers worship, but one 
God, invisible, immaterial, good, and just. Xenophanes ex- 
claims: “One god, the greatest among gods and men,” and 
Aristotle endeavors to prove by arguments that there cannot 
be more than one god.’“ In those works of the philosophers 
the Hellenistic Jewish writers also found expressions of 
opinion against anthropomorphisms. Xenophanes again ex- 
claims that his one god is “neither in form like unto mortals 
nor in thought,” and Aristotle tries to prove that God is 
not corporeal.’* In Heraclitus, furthermore, they found an 
attack upon the veneration paid to images, for, he says, “ they 

Wisdom of Solomon 14: 23, 

*7 Cf. W. J. Deane^s note in his edition of The Book of Wisdom, ad loc, 

III Macc. 2:30. 

*9 H. Diels, Die Fragment e der Vorsokratiker^ I, p. 62, Fr, 23; J. Burnet, Early 
Greek Philosophy s, p. 119, Fr. 23, 

Phys, VIII, 6, 259a, 8 ff. 

Loc, cit,y above, n. 89, 

Phys, VIII, 10, 266a, 10 £F. 

1 8 PHILO 

pray to these images, as if one were to talk with a man’s 
house, knowing not what gods or heroes are.” In Xenoph- 
anes they also found a denunciation of Homer and Hesiod, 
who “have ascribed to the gods all things that are a shame 
and a disgrace among mortals, stealings and adulteries and 
deceivings of one another.” Moreover, among the philoso- 
phers they also found denunciations of certain religious 
practices like those denounced by the prophets. Heraclitus 
thus denounces the mysteries and the Dionysiac orgies: “The 
mysteries practiced among men are unholy mysteries,” 
and “if it were not to Dionysus that they made a procession 
and sang the shameful phallic hymn, they would be acting 
most shamelessly.” As in the prophets, they found in 
Plato a denunciation of those who believe that the gods “are 
easy to win over when bribed by offerings and prayers” or 
that they would betray justice “for the sake of gifts offered 
by unjust men.” More especially did they find in the 
works of the philosophers a preoccupation with the question 
with which they were already acquainted from the prophet 
Micah’s question: “Must thou, O man, be told what is 
good?” And the answer they found in the works of the 
philosophers was almost like those they found in the answer 
given by the prophet: “What doth the Lord require from 
thee, but to do justice and to love mercy, and to be prepared 
to walk with the Lord thy God?” ““ Justice and mercy are 
what philosophers would include in their various lists of what 
they call virtues, and the practice of virtue is what to the 

w Diels, op* cit,, I, p. 78, 11 . 10-12, Fr. 5; Burnet, op. cit.^ p. 141, Fr. 126. Cf. 
below, II, 1 16. 

9 ^ Di els, op. cit.y I, p. 59, Fr. 1 1 ; Burnet, op. dt., p. 1 19, Fr. 1 1 . 

9S Diels, op. cit.y I, p, 81, 11 , 4-5, Fr. 14; Burnet, op. dt.^ p. 141, Fr. 125. 

^ Diels, loc. di.^ 11 . 6-8, Fr. 15; Burnet, he. «V., Fr, 127. 

97 Laws X, 885 b; Republic II, 364 B. 

9 * Laws X, 907 A. Cf. below, II, 242-246. 

99 Micab6:8 (LXX), Ibid. 


philosophers is the good. Exactly like the prophet’s advice 
‘‘to be prepared to walk with the Lord thy God” were the 
statements they found among the philosophers that “ every 
man ought so to devise as to be of the number of those who 
follow in the steps of the God” and “to become like God, 
so far as this is possible; and to become like God is to become 
righteous and holy and wise.” Moreover, all the philoso- 
phers, dissatisfied with existing laws, planned to establish 
laws for the guidance of individuals and states which, like 
the laws of Moses, were aimed to establish justice and 
righteousness so as to assimilate the conduct of men to that 
of God. 

And so in presenting the beliefs and laws and practices of 
Judaism to a hostile world — beliefs which were character- 
ized as atheism, laws which were described as inhospitable, 
and practices which were condemned as superstitious — they 
tried to show that their God, though not one of the gods of 
popular religion, is the God of philosophers, that their laws, 
though not the same as the laws of the city religions, were 
like the ethics and politics recommended by philosophers, and 
that their practices, though oudandish, could be explained as 
being based upon reason, hoping perhaps that those for whom 
their writings were intended might recall that some of the 
Greek philosophers also were accused of atheism and im- 
piety. Thus God who in Scripture describes himself as “ I am 
He who is” (6 begins to be referred to as 6 with 
the philosophical connotation of real being, reflecting Plato’s 
use of the term wrcos oy in its application to the ideas.^®^ The 
creation of the world is expressed in philosophic terms as a 
creation “out of formless matter” aix6pcj>ov The 

^0^ Plato, Laws IV, 716 b. Wisdom of Solomon 13: i. 

Idem.y Theaetetus 176 b. Phaedrus 247 E, 

Exod. 3: 14. Wisdom of Solomon ii: 17. 



Law is described in terms of philosophy as having been drawn 
up “with a view to truth and the indication of right reason 
(opdod \6yov),” and its commandments are identified with 
what philosophers call virtues (dperat).”* And the descrip- 
tion of the world and man and society in Scripture is repro- 
duced with an admixture of philosophic terminology. The 
Hellenistic Jewish writers, who condemned Greek popular 
religion and mythology and mysteries, saw in the Greek phi- 
losophers the spiritual kindred of the Jews, just as Aristotle, 
according to a story told by a Greek writer, on his first meet- 
ing with a Jew, saw in him the representative of a race of 

Still, to these Alexandrian Jewish writers, while philosophy 
in its teachings about God and about the duties of men was 
reminiscent of the teachings of Scripture, it never really 
reached the full truth of Scripture. It only groped after it, 
and occasionally approached it in a vague way. The full 
truth in all its splendor is to be found only in Scripture, 
which was revealed to men directly by God; philosophy is 
only the product of the human mind, and hence subject to 

The conception of the divine origin of the Law as it formu- 
lated itself in the minds of these Hellenistic Jewish writers 
reflects what by that time was already an established Jewish 
belief. Its origin, of course, is the testimony of Scripture it- 
self that Moses spoke the word of God. But the formulation 
of that belief must have arisen out of the many passages in 
Scripture about wisdom and the Law and their relation to 
each other. There was, to begin with, wisdom, which says 
of itself, “The Lord created me in the beginning of His way, 

Aristeas, i6i. 

Aristeas, 144; Aristobulus in Eusebius, Praeparatio Emngelica XIII la; IV 
Macc. 5:2.3; Wisdom of Solomon 8:7, 

Cf, Josephus, Apkn, I, aa, 177-181. 


before His works of old.” Then there was the identifica- 
tion of that wisdom, which was created before the creation 
of the world, with the Law which long after the creation of 
the world was revealed by God through Moses. Just as of 
that wisdom it is said that in the finding of it man is to be 
happy and that it is to keep him from the strange woman,^^® 
so also of the Law it is said that man is not to forget it and 
that it is to keep him from the evil wonTian,^^"* and it is the 
Law which is “your wisdom and your understanding in the 
sight of the nations.” Out of this there grew up the view 
that the revelation of the Law was the revelation of that wis- 
dom which had been created by God and existed with Him 
prior to the creation of the world. As expressed by later 
rabbis, “The Law is a species of wisdom come down from 
wisdom on high.” But this Law, which is preexistent wis- 
dom revealed, was revealed only to Israel, for it is the pe- 
culiar “inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.” To 
other peoples God has given another kind of wisdom, wis- 
dom acquired by them through their own effort, though 
with the help of God, and this human wisdom is shared by 
“the children of the east” and “Egypt” and “Teman” 
and Tyre and Babylon and Gebal.“* 

In Palestinian Judaism this conception of the divine origin 
of the Law is given expression by Ben-Sira. To begin with, 
prior to the creation of the heavens and the earth there had 
already existed wisdom, for ^‘before them all was wisdom 
created.” Then this antemundane wisdom was revealed 
in the Law of Moses, for “if thou desire wisdom, keep the 

HO Prov. 8: 22. 

Prov. 3: 13, 

Prov. 7:4-5. 
m Prov. 3; I. 

XU Prov. 6: 23--24. 

Deut, 4: 6. 

Genesis Rahhah 17, 5. 

xxn Deut. 33:4. 

I Elings 5:10, 
"^9 Jer. 49:7. 
Ezek. 28: 5. 
Jer. 50:35. 
Ezek. 27; 9. 
”3 Sirach 1:4. 



commandments, and the Lord will give her freely unto 
thee . . and he that taketh hold of the Law findeth her “s 
, . . and all wisdom is the fulfilling of the Law.” But it 
is only the wisdom of Israel which is the Law that was di- 
vinely revealed, for God who created wisdom and revealed 
her to men said unto her: “Let thy dwelling-place be in 
Jacob, and in Israel take up thy inheritance . . . and I took 
root among the honoured people.” 

This conception of the divine origin of the Law can also be 
pieced together from the various philosophic writings of Hel- 
lenistic Judaism prior to Philo. In the Letter of Aristeas the 
books of the Law are described as oracles (X67ia) of God,*“® 
and the Law is said to be “sacred and of divine origin.” 

No mention is made in this letter of the identification of the 
Law with wisdom nor of the antemundane existence of wis- 
dom. But the Fourth Book of Maccabees, after reproducing 
the Stoic definition of wisdom,^^® explicitly identifies wisdom 
with the Law, in its statement: '‘This I take to be the culture 
acquired under the Law.” No mention, however, is made 
of the antemundane existence of that wisdom which is ac- 
quired under the Law. But in Aristobulus there is a direct 
reference to “one of our forefathers, Solomon” as saying 
that wisdom “has existed before heaven and earth.” A 
direct statement as to the antemundane existence of wisdom, 
reflecting the Book of Proverbs, is found in the Wisdom of 
Solomon, in the verse saying that “with Thee was wisdom, 
which knoweth thy works, and was present when Thou wast 
making the world”; and the identification of wisdom with 

Sirach 1:26. Aristeas, 177. 

Sirach 15: i. *29 Aristeas, 313; cf. 31. 

Sirach 19; 20; cf, 21: ii; 24: 23; 34: 8. ^30 IV Macc. i : 16, 

”7 Sirach 24:8, 12. ^31 i: 17, 

*32 Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica XIII, la, 376b; cf. VIII, 14, 324b. 

*33 Wisdom of Solomon 9:9; cf. below, p. 183. 


the Law is implied in the same book, in the verse saying that 
“love [of wisdom] is observance of her laws/" 

Now Hellenistic Jewish writers must undoubtedly have 
been acquainted with the claim of popular Greek religion that 
certain laws were revealed by the gods.^^^ But no mention of 
this claim is made by them. To them, since the Greek gods 
are false gods, the claims that they had revealed laws are false 
claims. Undoubtedly, too, these writers must also have 
known about the various philosophic speculations on wis- 
dom as belonging to God,^^^ but when they happened to come 
upon any such speculation they must undoubtedly have 
tried to evaluate it in the light of their own native Jewish 
tradition about wisdom as coming from God. When, for in- 
stance, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato maintain that God 
alone is wise (<ro(^6s) but man can only be a lover of wisdom 
(<j)LX6(To4>os)y^^^ the Jewish writers must have seen in such 
statements, in so far as they attribute wisdom to God, an 
approach to the truth of Scripture; but in so far as they deny 
wisdom to man, a confession of the impossibility of man's 
attaining true wisdom without revelation. When, on the 
other hand, Aristotle and the Stoics maintain that man can 
have wisdom but that wisdom (<7o<^ia) is to be defined, in the 
words of Aristotle, as “any science that deals with divine ob- 
jects" {delay^^ and, in the words of the Stoics, as “the sci- 
ence of things divine and human," the Hellenistic Jewish 
writers must have seen in these statements a use of the term 
wisdom in the sense of wisdom attained by man through his 
own powers as contrasted with revealed wisdom. 

^34 Wisdom of Solomon 6 ; 18. ^3S Cf. below, II, 191. 

Cf. H. Leisegang, “Sophia,” in Pauly-Wissowa. 2. Rcihe, 5, cols. 1019-1039. 

^37 Phaedrus 278 D; Symposium 203 e; cf. Diogenes, 1 , 12. On the earlier use of 
(ro<^s in the general sense of philosopher, see E. Frank, Plato und die sogenannten 
Pythagoreer^ 1923, p. 298, n. i. 

^3* Metaph. I, 2, 983a, 6-7. 

=^39 Sextus, Adversus Physicos 1 , 13. 



This, then, is how the Law and philosophy must have con- 
trasted themselves in the minds of the Hellenistic Jewish 
writers. The former was wisdom revealed by God; the latter 
was wisdom attained by man’s own powers. A direct ref- 
erence to this contrast between revelation and philosophy is 
to be found in the Wisdom of Solomon, in its author’s decla- 
ration that he will declare what wisdom is and how she came, 
and will not hide “mysteries” (juuo-Ti^pta).^''® Now the term 
mysteries in its ordinary sense refers to certain hidden and 
sacred rites practiced throughout the heathen world, the 
nature of which their participants were not allowed to di- 
vulge, and the obvious meaning of this verse, therefore, 
would seem to be that, while wisdom is of the nature of a 
mystery, unlike the heathen mysteries it is to be divulged.^'** 
But it happens that the term mysteries by that time had ac- 
quired in Greek philosophy an additional meaning. It re- 
ferred to that kind of wisdom which some philosophers be- 
lieved, as we have seen, to belong only to the gods and which 
had to be imparted in secret only to a chosen few. Of 
Protagoras, whom he describes as a very wise man (ir&ffcro- 
<l>os), Plato suggests that he must have told “the truth to his 
pupils in secret ” {ip &ToppfiT(ii),^*^ and this truth is described 
by him as mysteries (juwriipia).''*® Aristotle, who uses the 
term wisdom to mean the science of things divine and main- 
tains that man can have wisdom, divided his philosophy into 
“exoteric” and “esoteric” or “acroastic”; and to the latter, 
because it dealt with “a more profound and recondite phi- 
losophy,” it is said he “did not ordinarily admit any pupil 

*40 Wisdom of Solomon 6; 22 (23); cf. below, pp, 43 ff. 

*41 Cf. S. Holmes's note ad loc^ in Charles’s Apocrypha and Pseudepip^apha of the 
Old Testament, Cf. also notes in the commentaries of L. W. Grimm, W. J. Deane, 
and P. Heinisch, ad loc. 

*43 Theaetetus 152 c. 

*43 Ihid, 156 A. 


until he tested his ability, his elementary knowledge, and his 
zeal and devotion to study.” These esoteric doctrines of 
Aristotle are in a later time described by Themistius (4th 
century a.d.) as being of the nature of mysteries (jano-riKot) 
and sacred initiations The Stoics, who describe 

wisdom as the knowledge of things divine and human and 
consider it accessible to men, still consider discourses about 
the gods as mysteries (reXeraO,*'''® evidently to be kept secret 
from the common people. In general, it may be said that the 
practice of keeping certain doctrines secret was common 
among all the schools of Greek philosophy.^"* ^ We therefore 
take it that it is in contrast to this wisdom or philosophy of 
the Greeks that the author of the Book of the Wisdom of 
Solomon says of the wisdom which was revealed in the Law, 
that “what wisdom is, and how she came up, I will declare, 
and I will not hide mysteries (jxvariipio.) from you; but I will 
seek her out from the beginning of her birth and bring the 
knowledge of her into clear light, and will not pass by the 
truth.” *''* By all this he means to say that he is going to tell 
the story of wisdom or the Law “ from the beginning of her 
birth,” that is, from the time it was created by God before 
the creation of the world; “how she came up,” that is, how 
she was revealed by God through Moses; and finally “what 
wisdom is.” Evidently having in mind the statement that 
“the divine cannot be envious (<l>dovepbv) which is used 
by Aristotle as a refutation of Simonides’ statement that 

Gellius, Nocks Atticae XX, 5. 

14s Themistius, Orationes XXVI, 319 d, ed. Dindorf, p. 385, 11 . 32--33. Cf. Zeller 
II, 24, pp. 155, n. 7; 1 16, n. 4 {Aristotle^ I, pp. 112, n. i; 113, n. i). 

*4<> Arnim, 11 , 42 and 1008. 

^47 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata V, 9, PG, 9, 90 a f. 

^48 Wisdom of Solomon 6:22 (23). 

^49 Metaph, I, 2, 983a, 2-3. I take the reference in the Wisdom of Solomon to be 
to the statement in Aristode, unlike the reference later in Philo (cf. below, p. 37), 
which is to a similar statement in Plato. 



“God alone can have this privilege [i.e., wisdom],” he says: 
“Neither indeed will I take pining envy {4>9bv<j^) for my com- 
panion, because envy shall have no fellowship with wis- 
dom,” and also “As I learned without guile, I impart 
without envy {a<f)e6pc>}s) ; I do not hide her riches.” 

This wisdom which is the Law, having a divine origin, is 
also superior to the wisdom which the philosophers have 
attained to. The latter only remotely approaches certain 
truths of divine wisdom. In their extant writings, pre- 
Philonic Alexandrian Jewish philosophers do not criticize 
Greek philosophy; that was not their purpose. Their main 
purpose was, as we have said, to show that, while the Jews 
rejected the heathen deities, they were not atheists; that 
while their laws were peculiar, they were not inhospitable; 
and that while their practices were outlandish, they were not 
superstitious. But still, with all their desire to present 
Judaism as a philosophy like that of the Greek philosophers, 
they constantly stress certain fundamental difFerences. The 
Jewish God indeed is incorporeal and free of emotions as is 
the God of the philosophers, but still He is not without per- 
sonal relation to man. He can be prayed to.^®^ God has es- 
tablished a fixed order of nature, but stillHe can miraculously 
change that order. God is providence, as philosophers say, 
but His providence is individual: He rewards and punishes.^®® 
Man is a part of nature, and his actions follow the laws of 
cause and effect, but God by His grace has given him free- 
dom.^®® The soul is immortal, as philosophers say, but it is 
also destructible as a punishment.*®^ The laws of Moses aim 

Ibid., 9 Sab, 30-31, I hid. 7:13. 

Wisdom of Solomon 6; 23 (24). Aristeas, 192, 

Wisdom of Solomon ii: 17-20; 19: 6-12, 18-22; cf. 12: 18. 

Wisdom of Solomon 14; 3-4; 19: 13. 

Aristeas, 231, 236, 237; Wisdom of Solomon 1:12, 

Wisdom of Solomon 3; ii; 4: 19; cf. below, p, 409. 


to implant virtue as do the laws recommended by philoso- 
phers, still these laws are not merely a means which can be 
replaced by other means; they are the best means, the means 
revealed by God, and they are to be obeyed for their own sake 
as divine ordinances.^®* The superiority of Scripture to 
philosophy is brought out dramatically by the author of the 
Letter of Aristeas in his account of the table-talk between the 
Jewish sages and King Ptolemy Philadelphus. The king asks 
these Jewish sages all kinds of questions. They answer each 
question. But the common recurrent refrain in all their 
answers, expressing the same sentiment in different words, 
is that God is the source of everything we know and every- 
thing we do. Thereupon, says the author, “with loud voice 
the king greeted them all and spoke kindly to them, and all 
those who were present expressed their approval, especially 
the philosophers, for they were far superior to the philoso- 
phers both in conduct and in argument, since they always 
made God the starting-point.” 

II. Philo on Polytheism, Mythology, and Mysteries 

The same attitude toward these various phases of Greek 
religion — its polytheism, its mythology, and its mysteries — 
is reflected also in the writings of Philo. 

First, whenever he happens to comment upon a scriptural 
condemnation of the worship of “other gods,” those “other 
gods” become with him the gods of the Greeks and Egyp- 
tians. Like the Wisdom of Solomon,' evidently again follow- 
ing Plato’s view that “the earliest men in Greece believed 
only in those gods in whom many foreigners believe today — 
sun, moon, earth, stars and sky,” “ he mentions as an example 
of the most characteristic form of polytheism the deification 

Aristeas, 127; 313; Wisdom of Solomon 6; 18. * Cf. above, p. 14. 

Aristeas, 235. ’ Cratylus 397 c-D. 



of earth, water, air, fire, sun, moon, planets, and fixed stars.^ 
But he then adds the Greek names by which these natural 
objects came to be popularly known as deities — Kore or 
Demeter or Pluto for earth, Poseidon for sea, Hera for air, 
Hephaestus for fire, Apollo for sun, Artemis for moon. 
Aphrodite for Venus or the morning-star, Hermes for Mer- 
cury or the Shiner, Castor and Pollux or the Dioscuri for the 
two hemispheres — that above the earth and that below the 
earth; and he alludes to other names of deified natural ob- 
jects/ Those who have invented these names he calls soph- 
ists,’’ ^ evidently using this term here, not in the sense in 
which he often uses it, as referring to the Sophists of Pla- 
tonic fame,^ but in its earlier sense as meaning wise men, 
not only philosophers but also poets, including Homer and 
Hesiod/ Among the ‘‘other gods” which he denounces he 
includes “opportunity” (/catp6s), upon whom, he says, “the 
wickedest of men” look as a god,^ and he denounces also 
what he describes as “the impious doctrine of the Epicu- 
reans,” ® referring thereby, as we shall see, to the gods of the 
popular teachings of Epicurus/® So does he denounce the 
deification of heroes, to whom he refers also as “demigods” 
describing them as being “both mortal and im- 
mortal.” Of these demigods he mentions especially Diony- 
sus, Heracles, and the Dioscuri,''^ the last of whom, as we 

3 DecaL la, 53; Cont. i, 3-6. 

4 DecaL 12, 54-57; Cont, i, 3. 

s Cont, I, 4. 

^ Cf., e.g., Fosty II, 35: *'one of the ancient Sophists named Protagoras.'' 

’ Cf. Diogenes, I, 12, Cf. Zeller, I, 2S, p. 1074, n. 2 {Pre^Socratic Philosophy y 
II, p. 430, n. i). In this sense also does Philo use the term “sophists” as a descrip- 
tion of the traditional Jewish scholars in Alexandria (cf. below, p. 59). 

* in Gen, I, 100; Harris, Fragments y p, 19. 

» Post, I, 2. 

Cf. below, pp. 166, 176, 177. 

« Cont, I, 6; cf. Congx* 4, 15; Probus 16, 105. 

« Cont, I, 6; Probus 16, 105. *3 Legat, ii, 78. 


have seen, he mentions also among the gods without dis- 
tinguishing them as demigods. Besides heroes, he denounces 
also the deification of kings, with especial reference to the 
claim of Caligula, considering such a claim as being only a 
ridiculous imitation of ancient Greek deification of heroes 
and suggesting that this deification of kings, with particular 
reference to the case of Caligula, found no recognition among 
people, whether Greeks or barbarians, except among the 
native Egyptians of Alexandria, who were susceptible to it 
by reason of their belief in animal worship.^® He evinces no 
knowledge of the belief among ancient Egyptians, long be- 
fore his time, in the divine origin and nature of their kings; 
nor does he seem to know that Ptolemy II was deified during 
his life.^® In his condemnation of idolatry, while drawing 
upon the vocabulary of Scripture, he applies it to the idolatry 
of his own time. “The world as we know it,” he says, “is 
full of idols of wood and stone, and suchlike images.” He 
refers to them as those who are accounted as gods “in the 
different cities,”'"’ and describes them as “being fashioned 
by the arts of painters and sculptors,” out of wood or stone 
or silver or gold.” 

Cf. above, p- 28. Ibid. 25, i62->i65. 

Legat, II, 78 fF. ^7 Cf. above, p. 14. 

** Cf. W. S. Ferguson, in Cambridge Ancient History ^ VII, p. 17. 

*9 Mos. II, 38, 205, Ibid. 

Ibid.; BecaL 14, 66; Spec, I, 4, ai. 

Decal 14, 66; cf. Mos, II, 38, 205; Spec, I, 4, 21; Cont. i, 7. The expression 
“fashioned by the skill of painters and sculptors’* in Mos. II, 38, 205, as well as the 
expression “fashioned by the craftsmanship of sculpture and painting” in BecaL 
14, 66, does not mean that Philo believed that the painting of images was prohibited 
by the Mosaic law. In both these passages, it will be noticed, the images fashioned 
by painting and sculpture are said to be (i) ^ava, which definitely means a wooden 
statue, and (2) AyAXAtara, which, judging from the expression bybCKfiara koX ^ava Kal 
^oyYpa<i>rjfjLara in Abr. 45, 267, means here also a statue made either of stone or of 
metal. This clearly shows that the condemnation of images in these two passages 
is not of painted images but rather of statues painted with color. The pmnting of 
statues is known to have been customary in Greek sculpture, and Plato speaks of 

3 ° 


As a native of Alexandria and one who was acquainted 
directly with the Egyptians, he devotes special attention to 
their religion. In one passage, he refers in a general way to 
“the atheism of the Egyptians.” In another 

passage, he specifies what that atheism is. “ Moses,” he says, 
“has branded the Egyptian character as atheistical, because 
it values (i) earth above heaven, (2) the things that live on 
the land (xepo'ata) above those that dwell on high, and (3) the 
body above the soul.” In this passage, it will be noticed, 
he denounces three forms of atheism which he ascribes to 
Egyptians. First, their valuation of earth above heaven, by 
which he undoubtedly means the various earth deities wor- 
shiped by the Egyptians. In his discussion of this form of 
atheism he mentions especially the Egyptian deification of 
the Nile, under which he undoubtedly includes the various 
Nile deities. Similarly, in another passage he describes the 
Egyptians as being “almost alone among the nations” in 
their deification of earth, including under this also their 
deification of the Nile,’® and characterizes this deification of 
earth and the Nile as “the atheism of those people.” Sec- 
ond, their valuation of things that live in the land above 

** painting statues’^ {Republic IV, 40.0 c). So also in the Wisdom of Solomon 15:4, 
the condemnation of “the painters’ fruitless labor, a form stained with varied 
colors” does not refer to a painted picture but rather to a painted statue (cf. P. 
Heinisch, Das Buck der Weisheit^ ad /or.). According to the Talmudic interpretation 
of the prohibition against the making of “any likeness” (Exod. 20:4), this pro- 
hibition applies only to carved figures but does not apply to images not projecting 
i^Abodah Zarah 43b; Maimonides, Mishneh ^orah^ 'Akunty III, 10). This interpre- 
tation of the law was quite evidently that which was followed both by the author 
of the Wisdom of Solomon and by Philo, as well as also later by the Jews in Dura- 
Europos, as may be judged from the paintings in their synagogue (cf. Du Mesnil du 
Buisson, Les Peintures de la Synagogue de Boura-EuropoSy24$-2^6aprhJ.^C,y'Kom2i, 
1939). But even in the case of carved figures, the law was not always interpreted 
with the same rigidity (cf. E. L. Sukenik, Ancient Synagogues in Palestine and Greece, 
London, 1934, pp. 63-65). 

*3 PosL I, 2. 

Mos, II, 36, 194-195. 

«« Ibid,, 193; cf. 37, 196, 


those that dwell on high, by which he quite evidently means 
their deification of animals. Similarly, in another passage 
he uses the term atheism as a description of Egyptian animal 
worship.*^ Third, their valuation of the body above the 
soul, by which, we take it, he means the deification of the 
dead and the identification of all the dead with the god 
Osiris.®^ The terms “heaven,” “those that dwell on high,” 
and “ the soul,” which he mentions as being undervalued by 
the Egyptians, are used by him here as symbolic of the im- 
material beings which, in contrast to the atheism of the 
Egyptians, constitute what he considered as theism — the 
belief in an incorporeal God and incorporeal ideas above this 
corporeal world of ours.’“ The terms “heaven” and “those 
that dwell on high” refer here respectively to God and the 
ideas, for “heaven” has the meaning of God both in Greek 
and in rabbinic Hebrew. 

Denunciation of animal worship as a practice peculiar to 
Egyptians occurs also in many other passages in Philo, As 
in the Wisdom of Solomon, he goes into a detailed enumera- 
tion of the animals worshiped by the Egyptians. They wor- 
ship, he says, “irrational animals,” not only domestic ani- 
mals, such as rams and goats and dogs and cats, and espe- 
cially buUs, but also wild animals, such as the lion and the 
wolf among the land animals and the crocodile among the 
aquatic animals, added to these also the asp among the 
reptiles, ibises and hawks among the birds, and finally also 
fishes, either their whole bodies or particular parts.*® He 
describes this form of worship as “the folly (rikidiarrjra) of 
Egypt,” *® which probably reflects the scriptural expressions 

” Legat. 25, 163. 

A. Erman, A Handbook of Egyptian Religion^ p. 90, 

25 Ibid.y p. 97. 30 Cf. below, pp. 164, 177 fF. 

^ Decal, 16, 76-79; Post. 48, 165; Legat. 20, 139; Spec. 1 , 15, 79; Mas. I, 5, 23. 

3* Spec. 1 , 15, 79. 


3 ^ 

“the abominations (p5e\vyiJ,aTa) of Egypt” and “the de- 
vices {imTrjSevfiara) of Egypt.” 

His application of the term “atheism” to the particular 
kind of Egyptian polytheism needs some comment. Atheism 
to him is not the same as polytheism, and the term is not 
used by him as a rule as a description of polytheism.^® When, 
therefore, he describes Egyptian polytheism as atheism, he 
is' using that term in some special sense. What that special 
sense is may be gathered from two passages. In one passage, 
he says that “polytheistic creeds” finally lead to “atheism,”®* 
and so we may assume that the polytheism of the Egyptians 
is called by him atheism because atheism is that which it 
finally must lead to. In another passage, he seems to indi- 
cate that the term atheism as a description of Egyptian ani- 
mal worship is used by him in the rather loose sense of ex- 
cessive folly (toXXij rfKiBiSTTjs) or excessive impiety (icre/Seta),®'' 
for, as he says in still another passage, animal worship is the 
worst of all the forms of polytheism.®* Sp also Plutarch, 
speaking of Egyptian animal worship, says that it plunges 
the weak and the innocent into “sheer superstition” and 
the more cynical and bold into “atheistic and brutish reason- 
ing ®’ maintaining, with regard to “superstition,” that it is 
no less an evil than “atheism.” 

Second, Philo denounces mythology, having in mind usu- 
ally Greek mythology but occasionally making reference also 
to Egyptian mythology.** Myths to him are man-made. 

33 Exod. 8:22. 36 Pram* 28, 162. 

3 -* Ezek. 20:75 8. 37 Legat, 25, 163. 

33 Cf. below, p. 166, 38 Decal, 16, j6, and 80. 

39 Plutarch, De I side et Osirtde^ ch. 71, 379 e. 

4 ® Ibid,^ ch. II, 355 d; cf, ch. 67, 378 a; De SuperstUione^ ch. i, 164 e; ch. 2, 165 c. 
So also Philo says that ** superstition*' is a brother of “impiety** {Sacr. 4, 15). Simi- 
lar statements with regard to the connection between “superstition** and “im- 
piety” are to be found also in Deter, 8, 24; Immut, 35, 164; Spec, IV, 27, 147; 
Praem, 7, 40. Decal, 16, 76; Spec, 1 , 15, 79; Migr, 14, 76. 


The expt'essions “to coin myths” (livdoirKaarTelv ) “making 
of myths” {livdowoUa ) and “coiners of myths” {iJ-vdoirKa- 
(TTac)'** are used by him in a derogatory sense with reference to 
mythology and mythologists. Myths are not only man-made, 
they are also false. They have been handed down “for the 
deception of mortal kind” and consequently they fill one 
with “ false opinions.” Mythology is “sophistry” opposed 
to “wisdom”; “imposture” opposed to “truth.”''® It in- 
vents “mythical devices contrary to the truth,”'*’ and its 
gods are “cunningly invented myths.” '** The myth-makers 
are described by him as those “who have infected our life 
with falsehoods and chased away truths from its borders.” 
“The hippocentaurs and chimeras and the like” are “forms 
of life hitherto unknown and with no existence outside 
mythology,” 5® the story of Gorgon is “an invention of a 
myth,” S'* and the “mythical stories” about an original human 
being who combined the characteristics of both sexes ** are 
regarded with supreme contempt by “ the disciples of Moses 
trained from their earliest years to love the truth.” The 
mythologists are “impious,” for in their “mythical inven- 
tions” they represent God “in word indeed as only endued 
with human form, but in fact as possessing human pas- 
sions.” Evidently referring to Plato’s condemnation of 
mythology,®® he says that even philosophers speak of “myth 

■I’ Post. 15, 52; Gig. 13, 58; Con/. 3, 6. 

<3 Leg. All. 1 , 14, 43; Sacr. 4, 13; 21, 76; ImmtU. 2, 59; Fug. 22, 121; Spec. 1 , 15, 79. 

« Conf. 3, 6; Jet. 1 1, 56; 12, 68. « Sacr. 21, 76. 

Praem. 2, 8. « Jet. ii, j6; cf. 12, 68. 

<7 Post. 15, J2. w Spec. Ill, 8, 45. 

Praem. 28, 162. 3 ' Legal. 32, 237. 

37 Cf. Plato, Symposium 189 D-190 D. 

33 Cont. 7, 63. But the same view is also found in Genesis Pabhah 8, r j Midrash 
'Pehillim, on Ps. 139: 5; Tanhuma-. Tazri‘a l; Berakot 6ia; ‘Eruhin i8a. So also 
Philo himself in Opif. 24, 76. Cf. discussion in Ginzberg, legends of the Jevs 0 ew- 
ish Publication Society, 1909-1938), V, 88, n. 42. 

S'! Immut. 12, 59. 33 Republic II, 378 D. 



and fiction” as “obscuring the truth,” and complains of 
those who “make counterfeit impressions in the yet tender 
souls of the young, employing their ears as their ministers, 
and filling them with mythical nonsense.” Mythology is 
not the invention of virtue, but the invention of pleasure.®* 
In the second of the ten commandments, therefore, he finds 
a prohibition not only of the worship of idols but also of the 
worship of “all those deities which the myth- writers have in- 
vented and spread delusion therewith” and for the promo- 
tion of which they make use of “melody, metre and rhythm” 
as well as of the arts of “sculpture and painting.” *’ More- 
over, not only is it prohibited by this second commandment 
to worship or to make these mythological deities but it is also 
prohibited* “to believe in (TpocrUa-dai.) the mythical inven- 
tions about the marriage of gods and the birth of gods and 
the numberless and very grave scandals associated with both 
of these.” Proselytes are described by him as those who 
“spurn mythical inventions and embrace truth in its pu- 
rity ” or as those who take up their abode “with the truth 
and with the honor of the one Being who is entitled to honor, 
abandoning the mythical inventions and multiplicity of 

As contrasted with mythology, which is man-made and 
false. Scripture is the work of God, and “in the work of God 
you will find no mythical invention, but only inexorable 
rules of truth firmly established, nor will you find in it metres 
and rhythms and tuneful verses charming the ear with their 
music, but nature’s own consummate works, which possess 
a harmony all their own.” ** Moses “refrained from invent- 
ing myths himself or acquiescing in those composed by 

s® Opif. 6i, 170. 59 spec. I, 5, aS-ag. 

5 ’ Post. 48, i6j. Decal. 39, ij6. 

s* Sacr. 5, 28. 5 ' Spec. 1 , 9, 51. 

59 Spec. IV, 34, 178; cf. Firt. ao, loa; 33, 178. 

53 Deter. 33, 135. 


others/’ Unlike myths which, being man-rinade, are 
described by him as belonging to the past and as being old 
and obsolete and effete, the thoughts contained in Scripture 
are said by him to be always '‘new and fresh and in the vigor 
of youth,” for they come from God "who never grows 
old.” Unlike myths, too, which, being man-made, are not 
only false as literal facts but also contain no underlying 
meaning, the words of Scripture, being divinely revealed, are 
true literally when they are meant to be taken as literal 
truths, but even when they are not meant to be taken as 
literal truths they still contain an underlying meaning which 
teaches a true doctrine, to be elicited by the allegorical 
method. Thus the stories of creation, even though not to be 
taken as literal facts, "are no mythical fictions, such as poets 
and sophists delight in, but modes of making ideas visible, 
bidding us resort to allegorical interpretation guided in our 
renderings by what lies beneath the surface.” Thus also 
the things told about "the serpent speaking in a human 
voice” — when taken literally, "these things are like prodi- 
gies and marvels” in myths, "but when we interpret words 
by the meanings that lie beneath the surface, all that is of 
the nature of a myth is removed out of the way, and the true 
sense becomes as clear as daylight.” Hence the story of 
the giants is unlike "the myths of the poets about giants,” 
not because it is literally true, but because it contains an 
underlying meaning,^^ When certain people deride the story 
of the confusion of tongues, arguing that it is not different 
from similar Greek myths, his answer is that it differs from 
Greek myths in that it contains an underlying meaning which 
can be elicited by the allegorical method. Similarly, in the 

<54 Opif. I, 2. ^3^ 

< 5 s Sacr, 21, 76. Ibid.y 60. 

^ Opif. 56, 157. Gen. ii; 1-9. 

Jgr, 22, 96-97. 



tory of Lot’s wife, Moses “is not inventing a myth, but in- 
dicating precisely a real fact,” the real fact being the inner 
meaning it contains.’^ The point is that when Philo, in 
various ways, maintains that some scriptural story is not like 
a myth, he means that it is not like a myth because a scrip- 
tural story, whether literally true as a fact or not, always has 
some underlying meaning, whereas myths neither are liter- 
ally true nor have an underlying meaning. Even the true 
historical events of the past recorded by Greek authors, he 
maintains, are not to be compared to Scripture. “No doubt 
it is profitable, if not for the acquisition of perfect virtue, at 
any rate for the life of civic virtue, to feed the mind on ancient 
and time-honored thoughts, to trace the venerable tradition 
of noble deeds, which historians and all the family of poets 
have handed down to the memory of their own and future 
generations.” Moreover, there is a certain intrinsic satis- 
faction in the knowledge of men and deeds of old, “for 
truly it is sweet to leave nothing unknown.” Still, all this 
knowledge is only of human origin, whereas all the knowl- 
edge that is contained in Scripture is of divine origin, having 
come to us by way of revelation. Revelation to him is self- 
taught wisdom, for God has caused it “ to spring up within 
the soul.” In the presence of the knowledge which comes 
from Scripture, the knowledge which comes from Greek 
sources grows into insignificance and disappears, for “it is 
impossible that God’s scholar or pupil or disciple, or any 
other name which one may think fit to call him, should 
tolerate the rules of guidance of mortal men.” 

Third, he denounces the Greek mysteries. He dwells upon 
the licentiousness and effeminacy which are associated with 
the mysteries. Male prostitutes, he says, some of them 

Fug , 22, 1 21, Ihid , 22, 78; 23, 79, 

Sacr , 22, 78. 75 23, 79, 

73 Ibid , 23, 79; cf. Metaph , I, 980a, 21. 


eunuchs, are to be seen “ continually strutting about through 
the thick of the market, heading the procession at the feasts, 
appointed to serve as unholy ministers of holy things, leading 
the mysteries and initiations and celebrating the rites of 
Demeter.” In the words “ there shall be no reXear^opos of 
the daughters of Israel, neither shall there be a rekia-KOfievos of 
the sons of Israel,” which in the Septuagint are added to the 
verse "there shall be no harlot of the daughters of Israel, 
neither shall there be a whoremonger of the sons of Israel,”’^ 
Philo finds a prohibition against receiving or conferring initia- 
tion into "occult rites and mysteries” (reXeras Kal ixva-Tripia). 
He describes them as “imposture and buffoonery,” as “mum- 
meries and mystic fables.” He objects to them on the ground 
that they shut themselves up “in profound darkness and 
reserve their benefits for three or four alone,” arguing that 
“if these things are good and profitable,” they should be 
produced “in the midst of the market-place,” where “you 
might extend them to every man and thus enable all to share 
in security a better and happier life.” Like the author of 
the Wisdom of Solomon, who, as we have seen, draws upon 
Aristotle’s saying that "the divine cannot be envious,” ’®he 
paraphrases a similar saying from Plato to the effect that 
“virtue has no room in her home for envy.” The con- 
sorting by the children of Israel with the daughters of Moab 
at Shittim is interpreted by him as “spurning their an- 
cestral customs and seeking initiation (reXovnivovs) into the 
mythical rites of mysteries (pvdiKas reXeras).” Using the 
very language of mysteries, he says of " barbarian and Greek 
nations ” that they are celebrating “mysteries uninitiated ” 
(djuwjToi/s iJLvtja’eLs) and “rites unorgiastic” {ivopyiacTTovs reXe- 

7 * spec. Ill, 7, 40-41. *“ Spec. I, 59, 321; cf. Phaedrus 247 a. 

71 Deut. 23: 18 (17). Num. 23: 1 ff. 

7 * Spec. I, 59, 319-320. *7 Spec. I, 10, 56. 

79 Cf. above, p. 25. *9 Cher. 27, 91. 



ris),*'* that is to say, their mysteries and rites are a mockery. 

Stillj despite his condemnation of popular religion, mythol- 
ogy, and mysteries, Philo does not hesitate to make use of 
the vocabulary of all these in his description of the beliefs 
and institutions of Judaism. 

With regard to popular religion, he does not hesitate to 
speak of the stars as “ the gods which sense descries in 
heaven” and of the heaven as the “great visible god.” 
Nor does he hesitate to speak of the Furies as “the venerable 
goddesses” (aeiival deat)/'’ the name by which they were 
commonly called in Athens. Nor, again, does he hesitate to 
speak of God as “the Lord of gods and men” ®® or “the 
supreme Father of gods and men” or as being “God not 
only of men but also of gods,” though the description 
“Father of gods and men” is usually applied by Homer to 
Zeus.’^ In wishing to describe the greatness or powerfulness 
or goodness of God, or any other of His attributes, he does 
not hesitate to make use of certain stereotyped epithets 
which in Greek literature are used with reference to other 
deities. He thus describes God as “the God of liberty 
(ekevSipLov) and hospitality {^iviov) and of suppliants (ke- 
diov) and of guests (i4>ecrTi,ov) even though all these are 
titles commonly applied to Zeus.*® He thus also describes 
God as “the victory-giver” (yLKr]<f)6pos),^^ “the benefactor” 
{eiepyirijs) , “the saviour” (auiT-rjp)^^ and “the overseer” 
(fe'c^iopos),*® even though all these terms are applied to Greek 
deities.*^ He had no objection to the use of all these terms 

*4 IMd. 28, 94. Mos. II, 38, 206. 

8s Spec, T, 3, 19; cf. Opif, 7, 27. *9 Spec, II, 29, 165. 

8® Jet, 3, 10; 5, 20. 90 ^5^ ^07. 

87 Proi>us 20, I40. 9 ^ Iliad IV, 68, et passim, 

9 ® Mos, I, 7, 36. 

93 Cf. L. Preller, Griechische Mythologies^ pp. 958-959. 94 Congr, 17, 93. 

95 Ibid,^ 30, 17 1. 96 Ahr, 15, 71. 

97 Cf, Preller, op, cit,, pp. 942, 950, 958, 959. Cf. Br6hier, pp. 74-75. 


because he knew full well that, while in form they were bor- 
rowed from Greek popular religion, in substance they ex- 
pressed certain characteristics of God which are to be found 
in Scripture. In Scripture, God the Lord is called God of 
gods and Lord of lords and also ‘‘Father/’ and there 
is no reason therefore why, writing in Greek, he should not 
describe Him in the Homeric phrase “Father” or “Lord” 
of “gods and men.” In Scripture, too, God is described 
as one who chooses to let the oppressed go free,^®'^ who loves 
the stranger, who brings victory over enemies, who does 
good,^®^ beside whom there is no saviour,^®^ and who from 
the place of His habitation looks upon all the inhabitants of 
the earth, and there is no reason again why, writing in 
Greek, he should not condense these scriptural descriptions 
into commonly used Greek epithets for Greek gods. 

Sometimes, however, when he happens to use such com- 
mon Greek religious terms he tries to show that in their ap- 
plication to God he uses them in a somewhat different sense. 
Thus Philo felt himself justified in calling God “peace” 
{elpr}V7])i even though in Greek that is the name of a god- 
dess, inasmuch, evidently, as in Scripture God is described 
as he who gives or makes peace; still, in order to show that 
he does not confuse the Jewish God with the Greek goddess 
Irene, he says, “God alone is the real veritable peace” and, 
if Melchizedek is called “king of peace,” it is God who made 
him that.^°® In another place, he similarly felt himself justi- 
fied in saying of God that “He is great (iJ^eyas) and strong 

Deut. 10: 17. 99 Isa. 63: 16. 

Isa. 58: 6. The term used in this verse is but kXevdkpLos and icfika-Los 

are both used as epithets of Zeus in the same sense. Deut. lo: 18 . 

Ps. 18; 48-49. Isa. 43: II. 

^‘•3 Ps. 119:68. Ps. 32*. 13. 

Exod. 6:26; Isa. 26: 12; 45:7; Job 25:2. 

Somn, II, 38, 253. 

Leg. All. Ill, 25, 79; cf. Gen. 14: 18. 



(laxupos) and mighty (KparaLos)” evidently because Scrip- 
ture also describes God as “great (peyas) and strong (iaxupos) 
and awful (<^o/3ep6s)” ““ or “mighty” (Kparatos),'” still, in 
view of the fact that other gods are similarly described as 
great gods,”* he elsewhere describes God as “the all-great 
(iroj'Ta piyas) God.””^ In still another place, he happens to 
quote from the Septuagint the divine appellation “ the Most 
High ” vi/'ic-Tos),*''' which he undoubtedly knew to be used 

as a Greek appellation of Zeus,”* and consequently, in order 
to show that the application of that term to God does not 
imply a polytheistic belief, as it does in its application to 
Zeus, he immediately adds: “not that there is any other not 
most high . . . but to conceive of God not in low earthbound 
ways but in lofty terms.” Again, Philo could not help 
noticing that festivals like those prescribed in Scripture are 
celebrated also by heathen and that in the Septuagint the 
terms used in translating the various Hebrew terms for festi- 
vals are the same as those used as descriptions of heathenish 

Spec. I, 56, 307; cf. Cher, 9, 29. Deut. 10: 17. 

The same Hebrew term «T 13 which in Deut. 10: 17 is translated by <l>o^ep6s 
is in Deut. 7: 21 translated by KparaiSs. 

Cf. above, p. 12. Gen. 14:18. 

Somn. I, 16, 94. Cf. above, p. 12. 

“*5 Leg. All. Ill, 26, 8a. The expression neos Hypsistos was used as an appel- 
lation of God by the Jews in Egypt (cf. Roberts-Skeat-Nock, “The Gild of Zeus 
Hypsistos,” Harvard ^theological Review 29 (1936), p. 69) and in Asia Minoi^ and 
Delos (cf. W. W. Tarn, Hellenistic Civilization'^ (Edward Arnold & Co., 1936), p. 
193). U. V, Willamowitz-MoellendorfF, in “ Alexandrinische Inschriften,” Sitzungs- 
herichte der Berliner Akademie^ P« 1094, arbitrarily takes the use of this ex- 
pression by Jews in Athribis, Egypt, to imply their belief in polytheism and hence 
to indicate their religious Hellenization. An inscription from Egypt, published by 
0 . Rubensohn in Archiv fur Papyrusvorschung, 5 (1909), p. 163, which shows pagan 
influence, is taken by A. Tscherikower {Ha~Yehudim ve-hadYevanitn ba-^el}ufah ha- 
HellenisHty p. 359) to be of Jewish origin on the ground of its use of the expression 
QeCoi z^Ww(t). This is inconclusive. This expression had also an independent non- 
Jewish background (cf. E. Schiirer, “Die Juden im bosporanischen Reiche, etc.,” 
Sitzungsherichte der Berliner Akademie^ iS97> P* ti. i; Roberts-Skeat-Nock, op. 
cit„ p. 64), 


festivals. And so Philo tries to show the difference between 
the two kinds of festivals. “Let us consider,” he says, “our 
famous festal assemblies {Tavrjyvpeis) . Different nations, 
whether Greek or barbarian, have their own,” but these are 
“the product of myth and fiction, and their only purpose is 
empty vanity,” whereas the festivals prescribed in Scripture, 
“whether they be weekly Sabbaths or feasts, are His, who 
is the Cause, and pertain not to any man at all.” Writing 
in Greek, he naturally had occasion to refer to the Olympic 
games,^*® but still when in the course of a discussion of the 
verse “Let Dan be a serpent on the road, seated upon the 
track, biting the heel of the horse; and the horseman shall 
fall backwards, waiting for the salvation of the Lord,” he 
happens to remark that “the Olympic contest is the only one 
that can rightly be called sacred,” he immediately adds, “not 
that one which the inhabitants of Elis hold, but the contest 
for the winning of virtues which are divine and really 

Nor has he any objection to the use of mythological refer- 
ences. Quite unhesitatingly he refers to “the earliest men” 
who thought fit to call earth Demeter, to “other philoso- 
phers” who liken the number seven to the motherless Nike 
and Parthenos,“® to “men of old” who called earth Hestia,”^ 
and to similar other mythological terms. He does not even 
hesitate to quote mythology for the purpose of illustrating a 
certain scriptural verse. The reason why no mention is made 
of the death of Cain is, according to him, to show “in a 
figure that, like the Scylla of myth, folly is a deathless evil.”“'* 
In his comment upon the name of Zillah he refers to dis- 

^^7 Cher , 27, 91. Ibid , 33, 100. 

Immut . 31, 147; Cont , 5, 42. ^*3 Cher . 8, 26. 

Gen. 49: I7 “i8. ' Deter , 48, 178. 

2.7, 119. Gen. 4:19. 

OfiJ. 45 * 133 - 



tinguished men in former times who had gone up to Delphi 
and dedicated there records of their prosperous lives.*'®* 
Jethro is compared by him to the Egyptian Proteus.*®’ The 
three virtues symbolized by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and 
also the gifts with which Moses was endowed, are likened by 
him to the Graces.*®® God’s blessing is said by him to be 
“better than the nectar and ambrosia of the myths.” *®’ 

But in the case of mythology, as in the case of polytheism, 
he occasionally tries to show that the use of such mythologi- 
cal terms should not be taken as an indication of belief in 
what the terms stand for. The Septuagint usually translates 
the Hebrew Sheol by the Greek Hades, and so the following 
verse, wherein the word Sheol occurs, is translated by it: 
“Let the impious (do-e/Jeis) be shamed and driven down to 
Hades.” **“ Evidently with this verse in mind Philo says: 
“He banishes the unjust and ungodly soul from himself to 
the furthest bounds and disperses it to the place of pleasures 
and lusts and injustices; that place is most fitly called the 
place of the impious” (do-e/Swr). However, he immediately 
adds: “But it is not that mythical place of the impious in 
Hades, for the true Hades is the life of the bad, a life of dam- 
nation and blood-guiltiness, the victim of every curse.” *3* 
Perhaps this true Hades of Philo is not the true Sheol of the 
Hebrew Scripture either, but at any rate he takes pains to 
show that the Hades of the Septuagint is not the Hades of 
mythology. When therefore he says of apostates that “they 

'Post. 33, 1 13. Abr. ii, 54; 'M.os. II, i, 7. 

^27 Ebr, lOy 36. “5 Immut, 33, 155. 

^30 Ps. 31: 18 (17). 

*31 Congr. II, 57; cf. Heres 9, 45; Somn, I, 23, 151. This non-mythical conception 
of Hades as referring to punishments for crime as well as to tortures of conscience in 
this world reflects the view of ancient moral philosophers (cf. Hans Lewy’s note to 
Congr. II, 57, in PMos Werke^ VI, p. 19, n. 3, referring to Lucretius, III, 978 ff. and 
Heinze in his commentary ad loc.). It must, however, be added that, in addition 
to a Hades in this life, Philo also believed in the punishment of the wicked after 
death (cf. below, pp. 409 f.; 41a f.). 


will be dragged down and carried into Tartarus itself and 
profound darkness,” he must have mentally added that 
he does not mean thereby that mythical place of the impious 
in Tartarus. 

No less does he hesitate to use the language of mysteries in 
his description of the religion of Scripture. The covenant 
into which the children of Israel and the strangers that were 
among them as well as their future generations entered with 
God through the agency of Moses is described by him as 
an act by which Moses “initiated them into the mysteries” 
(livcTTa'Ycoy&v) Within these mysteries of Moses, as in the 
Eleusinian mysteries, he distinguishes between the lesser 
mysteries (tA fiiKpa (ivarripia; ^pa'xvrepai TeXerai)'^® arid the 
greater mysteries (tA pey&Xa Mvcrrijpta)^” or perfect mysteries 
(reXetai TeXera God,'^® Moses,''*® the seventy elders of 
Moses, ''*' the high priest, '■*' and Jeremiah'*^ are each de- 
scribed by him by the term Hierophant {UpocjiavTrjs) , the tech- 
nical term which designated the highest officer of the heathen 
mysteries and the demonstrator of its sacred knowledge. 
Finally, as in the heathen mysteries, he who has been initi- 
ated into the mysteries of Moses is not to divulge them to any 
of the uninitiated "*'* or to any one,'^® but he is to “ treasure 
them up” and, keeping check over his speech, he is to “con- 
ceal them in silence.” 

Fraem. 26, 1 52. Virt. 33, 178. 

^33 Deut. 29; 11-14. ^35 Sacr, i6, 62, 

^36 24, J22. 

^37 ail III, 33, 100; Cher, 44, 49; Sacr. 16, 62. 

138 Sacr, 15, 60. 

^39 Somn, I, 26, 164. 

140 Spec, I, 8, 41; II, 32, 201; IV, 34, 176; Virt, ii, 75; 32, 174. 

^41 Sohr, 4, 20, 

"42 Spec. Ill, 24, 135. 

"43 Cher, 14, 49. 

"44 Cher, 14, 48; cf. also Fra^menta^ Richter, VI, 206 (M, II, 651); 217 (M, II, 
658). Sacr.i^ySo, Ihid, 



These statements on mysteries have been taken by certain 
students of Philo as evidence either for the existence of mys- 
teries among the Alexandrian Jews or for the influence of 
mysteries upon Philo’s philosophy. “From many hints up 
and down in the works of Philo,” says Conybeare, “it is cer- 
tain that among the Alexandrian Jews there existed a system 
of mysteries, perhaps in imitation of the Greek mysteries of 
Demeter which were celebrated year by year on the hill of 
Eleusis close to Alexandria.” Ziegert raises the question 
“whether Philo, in drawing upon the Greek mysteries, had 
a certain definite and consciously designed purpose in mind, 
or whether, following the example of Greek writers, he uses 
the rich vocabulary in the treasure-house of the mysteries 
only for the purpose of embellishing his style,” and also 
“whether it would be right to say that on the basis of the 
mysteries Philo had built up a distinct and comprehensive 
system of religion or philosophy.” His answer to these 
questions is that “Philo, starting with the view that the 
mysteries are already contained in the Old Testament,” 
came to conceive the “ brilliant idea of transferring the sys- 
tem of ancient mysteries to his own religion, or, rather, to 
his own Alexandrian religious philosophy, but though he had 
made an attempt at it, he never brought it to completion, for, 
as so often elsewhere, so here, too, Philo lacked the power to 
carry out any planned thought to a consistent and clear con- 
clusion.” Goodenough, however, thinks that Philo had 
not only made a tentative attempt at his plan but had also 
carried it out successfully, for the entire philosophy of Philo 
is interpreted by him as a mystery. The Jew in Alexandria, 

^47 F. C, Conybeare, Philo about the Contemplative Lije^ 1895, p. 303. 

*48 P. Ziegert, *‘tJber die Ansatze zu einer Mysterienlehre aufgebaut auf den 
antiken Mysterien bei Philo Judaus,'* Theologische Studien und Kritiken^ 67 (1894), 
p. 706. 

^ 4 ’ Ihid.i pp. 72i'-722. Ibid.^ p» 722. Jbid., p, 724, 


he saysj “met not Aristotle or Zeno, but the mystic philoso- 
phy which was transforming every other oriental mythology 
into a mystery religion,” with the result that “Judaism in 
the Greek Diaspora did, for at least an important minority, 
become primarily such a mystery,” for “since a Jew could 
not now simply become an initiate of Isis or Orpheus and 
remain a Jew as well, the amazingly clever trick was devised, 
we do not know when or by whom,” of identifying, by means 
of allegory, the religion of Scripture with the religion of the 
mysteries, and thereby “Judaism was at once transformed 
into the greatest, the only true. Mystery,” within which 
“ God was no longer only the God presented in the Old Testa- 
ment: He was the Absolute, connected with phenomena by 
His Light-Stream, the Logos or Sophia.” ’s* Similarly the 
Law was no longer merely “ a set of commands for physical 
life” to be obeyed, but rather “the lepos Xoyos of the Mys- 
tery,” though for those who, like Philo, wished to continue 
to obey its commands, again by a “clever” device, it was 
made to mean “the material copy of a Platonic original.” 

Our own interpretation of Philo as the author of a philos- 
ophy like any of the religious philosophies which later ap- 
peared in Christianity and Islam and Judaism, and in fact 
as the mainspring of those philosophies, will be unfolded in 
the succeeding pages of this study. If our interpretation is 
right, then the relation of Philo to Greek philosophy is like 
that of any medieval philosopher, be he Christian or Moslem 
or Jewish, and the relation of his God to the God of Scripture 
is like that of the God of any of these medieval philosophers, 
and the allegorical method used by him is exactly like that 
used by any one of the medieval philosophers, and his con- 
ception of the preexistence of the Law, which conception he 

E. R. Goodenough, By Light, Light, 1935, pp. 4-5. 

iss JhiL, p. 7. Ibid., p. 8. 



quite naturally identified with the Platonic theory of ideas, 
is like that of any of the medieval philosophers, and his be- 
lief in obedience to the Law and in its eternity is like that of 
any of the medieval Jewish philosophers. He uses terms 
borrowed from the mysteries in the same way as he uses 
terms borrowed from popular religion and from mythology, 
all of them because they were part of common speech. More- 
over, just as Philo himself sometimes explains the special 
sense in which he uses terms borrowed from polytheism and 
mythology, so also he explains in what special sense he com- 
pares the covenant with God to an initiation into mysteries 
and in what special sense he enjoins silence with regard to 
what he calls the mysteries of God. 

The explanation of his comparison of the covenant be- 
tween Israel and God to initiation into mysteries may be 
pieced together from several passages. 

In one place, after dwelling on the virtue of repentance and 
its importance for all men who by their very nature cannot be 
altogether free from sin, he says: “And, therefore, when 
Moses convokes such people and would initiate them into his 
mysteries, he invites them with conciliatory and amicable 
offers of instruction, exhorting them to practise sincerity and 
reject vanity, to embrace truth and simplicity as vital neces- 
saries and the sources of happiness, and to rise in rebellion 
against the mythical fables impressed on their tender souls 
from their earliest years.” 

In another place he describes those who have been “initi- 
ated into the true mysteries of the Existent” as “those to 
whose lot has fallen a generously gifted nature and an edu- 
cation in all respects blameless” and who therefore “do not 
attribute to God any of the properties of a created being.” 

He contrasts them with those “whose natural wit is more 

Virt. 33, 178. 

*56 ImmuL 13, 61-62. 


dense and dull and who have been wrongly educated as 
children'’ and, therefore, on account of all this, have a 
cruder conception of God.^” 

In still another place, after dividing the mysteries of Moses 
into the lesser and the greater, he places under each of these 
mysteries two distinct things. The first thing under the lesser 
mysteries is described by him as the taming of the passions 
by a method '‘derived from some divine inspiration,”^^® 
that is, by the laws of Moses, so that initiation into the lesser 
mysteries makes “ the passage from the life of the passions 
to the practice of virtue.” By the practice of virtue, as we 
shall see later, he means the practice of the laws of Moses.^^® 
The second thing under the lesser mysteries is the acquisition 
of a knowledge of God indirectly "through His actions, as 
either creative or ruling” or "from created things.” By 
this indirect knowledge of God, again as we shall show later, 
he means a knowledge of God based upon reason and phi- 
losophy/^^ Under the greater mysteries he similarly includes 
two things. The first thing under the greater mysteries is 
the knowledge that besides the conception of virtue in the 
mind of man by means of sense^perception, symbolized by 
the verse "and Adam knew Eve his wife,” wherein Eve 

stands for sense-perception,"^^ there is a kind of virtue which 

comes directly from God, symbolized by the stories of Abra- 
ham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, who are not represented as 
knowing their wives."^^ In their case God himself "takes 
away [from the soul] the degenerate and emasculate passions 
which unmanned it and plants instead the native growth of 
unpolluted virtues,” for "He is himself Father of the 

"S7 Ibid. 14, 63, 

Sacr, 16, 62. 

^s9 Ibid, 17, 63. 

Cf. below, II, 200 ff. 
Abr, 24, 122. 

Leg, All, III, 33, 100. 
^^3 Cf. below, II, 89. 
Gen. 4:1. 

Cher, I2, 41. 

Ibid, 12, 40. 

^^7 Ibid, 14, 50, 



perfect nature, sowing and begetting happiness in men’s 
souls.” What he means by these statements is the view 
which, as we shall see, he maintains against philosophy, that 
besides freedom — which results from the control of the pas- 
sions by reason — and besides virtuous conduct — which 
may be attained by the guidance of reason — there is a free- 
dom which comes directly from God as a special grace from 
Him and a guidance to righteous conduct which comes 
directly from God as a revelation, again by a special grace 
from Him, and that revelation is embodied in the Law of 
Moses.^’® The second thing under the greater mysteries is 
the knowledge of God as one who is directly “visible apart 
from His powers,” and this direct knowledge of God is 
described by him as “a clear vision” of God which is per- 
ceived directly, and “not from created things.” By this, 
as we shall see, he means a knowledge of the existence of God 
attained by means of revelation,^’^ It will be noticed that the 
two things under the greater mysteries correspond exactly to 
the two things under the lesser mysteries. All these four 
meanings of the Mosaic mysteries are summed up by him 
in the statement that the mysteries contain “the knowl- 
edge of the Cause and of virtue and, third, of the offshoot of 
them both.” 

Finally, in one place, he seems to indicate that allegorical 
method, whereby the true knowledge of God and of virtue 
is to be extracted from the letter of the Law, was regarded by 
him as a mystery; for he speaks of those who are not versed 
in the allegorical method as those “who are not initiated 
{kuhriToi) in allegory,” and allegory itself is described by him 
as “the nature which loves to hide itself.” 

Leg. All. Ill, 77, 119. Leg. All. Ill, 33, 100. 

Cf. below, pp. 445-454. Cf. below, II, 89. 

> 7 “ Cf. below, II, 51. Cher. 14, 48. 

Sacr. 15, 60. 'js Fug. 32, 179. 


From all this we may gather that by those who have been 
initiated into mysteries he means men of good native abili- 
ties and proper education who have succeeded in mastering 
their passions and in acquiring a true knowledge of the ex- 
istence and nature of God. The knowledge of the existence 
of God, according to him, may come to them either indirectly 
through God’s actions in the world or directly through reve- 
lation. The knowledge of the true nature of God means to 
him the knowledge that God is incorporeal and unlike any 
of the created beings, and also that by a special grace He 
has endowed men with a part of His own power of freedom 
of action and has revealed to them a Law which is to guide 
them in their free action. These things are called by him 
mysteries for two reasons. First, they are called mysteries 
because the true knowledge of them lies hidden in Scripture, 
and has to be extracted from it by means of the allegorical 
method, which requires instruction. For this use of the term 
mysteries Philo had ample justification, since by his time 
that term had come to be applied to all matters of science 
which required instruction.*’® Philo himself uses the term 
mysteries in this sense when he says of Joseph that he “was 
both the initiated and the initiator in the mysteries of 
dreams.” *” Second, they are called mysteries as a challenge 
to the heathen mysteries. Philo seems to say to the votaries 
of the heathen mysteries: the communion with God and the 
salvation and the better way of life which you all aspire after 
are not to be attained by the sacred rites which you practice 
in secret, by your mummeries and mystic fables, but by 
obedience to the teachings and practices of the Law of 
Moses. These are the true mysteries. 

This challenge to the heathen mysteries is directly brought 

Cf. Uddell and Scott, under /iuo-T^ptor, and above, pp. 24 f. 

w Somn. II, 12, 78. 



out in that passage quoted above in which Philo tries to 
explain the scriptural teaching of how God by special grace 
may directly plant in man the growth of virtue. This scrip- 
tural teaching, which is described by him as one of the 
“divine mysteries” (reKeral or “holy mysteries” 

(tepa ixv<TTr]pia),^'’^ is derived by him allegorically from the 
fact that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, and others of 
the same kind, are not represented in Scripture as knowing 
their wives. He then proceeds to say: “Man and woman, 
male and female of the human race, in the course of nature 
come together to hold intercourse for the procreation of 
children. But virtues whose offspring are so many and so 
perfect may not have to do with mortal man, yet if they re- 
ceive not seed of generation from another they will never of 
themselves conceive. Who then is he that sows in them the 
good seed save the Father of all, that is God unbegotten and 
begetter of all things?”’'*" Then, commenting upon the 
verse which he quotes as reading “Hast thou not called Me 
as thy house and thy father and the husband of thy virgin- 
ityj” he interprets it to mean that God is “the husband of 
wisdom, dropping the seed of happiness for the race of mor- 
tals into good and virgin soil.” "*" Now in itself there is noth- 
ing strange in the use of this metaphor of sex and marriage 
in describing God as the source of virtue and happiness in 
man. Such a metaphor is also used by Plato in describing the 
ideas as the source of knowledge and truth in man. “It is 
the nature of the real lover of knowledge,” he says, “to strive 
emulously for true being . . . and the edge of his passion 
would not be blunted nor would his desire fail till he came 
in touch (S.'>f/a(T0a.c) with the nature of each thing in itself . . . 
and through that approaching (irXijortdo-as) it, and consorting 

* 7 “ Cher. I a, 42. Ibid. 13, 43-44. 

Ibid. 14, 48. Jer. 3:4. Cher. 14, 49. 


(niyels) with reality really, he would beget (yepvfjcras) intel- 
ligence and truth . . . and so find surcease from the travail 
(^Slvos) of soul.” ‘*3 But it happens that in the mysteries the 
marriage between some deity and man was not only used as 
a figure of speech but also was symbolically enacted as a rite. 
In modern historical reconstructions of the ceremonies per- 
formed at the various mysteries we are told that “ the culmi- 
nating rite of Sabazios was a sacred marriage in which the 
godj represented by the golden adder, was drawn through the 
bosom of his worshipper; and here the worshipper, whether 
man or woman, is conceived as female, being none other than 
the bride of the god.” All this had for its purpose the es- 
tablishment of a symbolic union between the votary and the 
deity. Philo undoubtedly was acquainted with this kind of 
rite, and by using in this passage the symbolism of marriage 
between God and men he meant to challenge all such rites 
of heathen mysteries. All these mummeries, he seems to 
say, are unnecessary. There is an unbroken and constant 
union between God and men, for God is in a sense always in 
men; He is the source of virtue in them. He has endowed 
them with a part of His own power to act with unrestrained 
freedom, and He directly communicates to them His will, 
whenever they prove themselves worthy of it. 

This then is the meaning of Philo’s comparison of the 
covenant between Israel and God to initiation into mysteries. 

Let us now see what Philo, on the show of his own explana- 
tion, means by his injunction of silence on the part of those 
who have been initiated into what he calls mysteries. 

Republic VI, 490 a-b. 

^84 Cf. A. B. Cook, Zeus, I, p. 396, referring to A. Dieterich, de hymnis Orphicis, 
1891, pp. 38 f. {-Kkine Schriften, 191 1, pp. 98 £,); Mutter Erie, 1905, pp. no ff.; 
id,, Eine Mithrasliturgi^, 1910, pp. 123 ff-; cf- also G. W. Butterworth’s Appendix 
to his edition of Clement of Alexandrians ^hc Exhortation to the Greeks, in The Loeb 
Classical Library, p. 38S. 



To begin with, he means thereby that man is to be modest 
about the special grace he may receive from God in aiding 
him to overcome the passions of his body, and he is not to 
boast about it. Thus, speaking of one of the two of his so- 
called lesser mysteries, that is, the taming of the passions by 
the practice of virtue, which he finds symbolized by the bak- 
ing of the dough into unleavened bread by the children of 
Israel on their exodus from Egypt,''®^ he makes the following 
statement: “And the method of the softening and improve- 
ment of the passions, which was revealed to them by a sort 
of divine inspiration, they did not utter aloud, but treasured 
it in silence, not being elated at the knowledge of the mys- 
tery (TeXerg), but yielding and being lowly as to their boast- 
ing.” Not to blab the mysteries and to conceal them in 
silence in this case merely means not to boast about them and 
not to feel proud of oneself for having been favored by God 
with a special revelation. This is in accord with Jewish teach- 
ing that one must not be boastful of the knowledge he has 
attained through his own efforts or through divine revela- 
tion, for “whoever is boastful, if he is wise, his wisdom will 
desert him and, if he is a prophet, his prophecy will desert 

Then, he means by his injunction of silence that the alle- 
gorical method of the interpretation of Scripture, whereby 
one is to discover its hidden mysteries, is not to be taught to 
persons who do not possess the required qualifications for it. 
To be initiated into these mysteries, as we have seen, means 
to Philo to be in possession of native ability, a good educa- 
tion, and a moral character.^*® When he says, therefore, that 
those who have been initiated into the holy mysteries of 
Moses should not divulge them to any of the “uninitiated,” 

Exod. 12:39. 
Sacr, 16, 62. 

Pesahim 66b. 

Cf. above, p. 49, 


he means thereby that the mysteries should not be taught to 
those who do not possess the required threefold qualification. 
When he says that these perfect mysteries are not to be 
divulged to “anyone” by “anyone” he means 

anyone who is not properly qualified. He himself would 
withhold the allegorical interpretation from the “super- 
stitious” and from those “who are inflicted with the incur- 
able disease of conceit, with petty quibbling about expres- 
sions and words, and with juggling tricks of manners.” 

He would impart them only to those who are “worthy” of 
it, and those only are worthy of it “who, with all modesty, 
practise true and really unadorned piety.” 

This need of intellectual and moral qualifications for the 
study of the inner truths of Scripture is stressed by Philo 
in many other passages. In one place, commenting upon the 
verses, “and Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it out- 
side the camp, afar off from the camp . . and when Moses 
entered into the tabernacle, the pillar of cloud descended 
and stood at the door of the tabernacle and [the Lord] talked 
with Moses,” he interprets them to mean that only those 
who “have put off all the things of creation and the inner- 
most veil and covering of mere opinion” are allowed to enter 
into the invisible region and to remain there while learning 
“the most sacred mysteries.” In another passage he says 
that the souls which “make a quest of God’s hidden myster- 
ies” first “build up the actions of virtue,” so that only “the 
virtuous man” receives “wisdom.” In still another place 
he says that God manifests himself and reveals His “secret 
mysteries” only to a soul that He deems worthy of them, and 
such a worthy soul is one “that longs for all beauteous 

Sacr, 15, 60. Exod. 33**7- 

*5® Cher. liij 42, *93 Exod. 33:9. 

IMd. Gig. 12, 53-’54. Leg, AIL III, i, 3. 



things” and shuns “evil” and destroys “passions.” In a 
fourth place he says that “ when the mind soars aloft and is 
being initiated into the mysteries of the Lord, it judges the 
body to be wicked and hostile.” In the Wisdom of Solo- 
mon this view is succinctly expressed in the verse, “For into 
a malicious soul wisdom shall not enter; nor dwell in the 
body that is subject unto sin.” 

For Philo to have made intellectual and moral qualifica- 
tions a condition for the study of the inner philosophic mean- 
ing of Scripture was only to follow a tradition common in 
Greek philosophy. There was, to begin with, Aristotle’s 
theory as to the subordination of moral to intellectual vir- 
tues and as to the need of proper training in order to attain 
intellectual virtue.^”" Philo has only slightly revised this view 
by making moral virtue a condition of intellectual virtue, 
and this under the influence of certain religious preconcep- 
tions of Judaism.®" Then also, as we have already seen, 
Protagoras, Aristotle, and the Stoics had regarded certain 
doctrines of their philosophy as mysteries, imparting them 
to their students in secret, and Aristotle would not impart 
them to any of his students “until he had tested his ability, 
his elementary knowledge, and his zeal and devotion to 
study.” The importance of certain preliminary knowledge 
for the study of the higher branches of learning is emphasized 
by Philo himself elsewhere, in his statement that one should 
not enter upon the study of “philosophy” until he had 
mastered the program of encyclical studies such as grammar 
and geometry and similar disciplines.*®^ By the same token, 
the highest study of God, which, as we shall see, he calls 
wisdom and which is considered by him higher than philoso- 

Ibid. Ill, 8, 27. Ibid, II, i, 1103a, 15-16. 

Ibid. Ill, 22, 71. ““ Cf. below, II, 261 ff. 

Wisdom of Solomon i : 4. Cf. above, pp. 24 f. 

Etk. Nic. X, 7-8. "J Ebr. 12, 48-50. 


phy/°'* should not be undertaken by anybody, nor should it 
be imparted to anybody, who has not been initiated into the 
study of philosophy. Not long after the time of Philo, when 
certain allegorical interpretations of Scripture, of a cosmo- 
gonical and theosophical nature, appeared in Palestinian 
Judaism, the rule was laid down that “one must not dis- 
course on the work of creation before two students, nor on the 
work of the chariot before one student, unless that student 
be wise and able to speculate by . himself.” So also, in a 
comment upon the verse “Now these are the judgments 
which thou shalt set before them,” playing upon the 
verb tasim, “thou shalt set,” and the noxin simak, “treas- 
ure,” and therefore taking the verse to mean “thou shalt 
set before them as a treasure,” Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai 
says: “Just as a treasure is not revealed to every one, so 
thou art not allowed to discourse on the profundities of the 
Law except in the presence of worthy persons.” The term 
mystery that Philo applies to the allegorical method and 
his warning not to blab it out to those who have not been 
initiated mean nothing more than that rule laid down by 
philosophers with regard to certain doctrines and by rabbis 
with regard to discoursing on the work of creation and on 
the work of the chariot and on the profundities of the Law. 

III. Discordance, Conformity, Apostasy 

The warning by Philo against divulging the allegorical in- 
terpretation of Scripture to those not qualified for it by native 
Cf. below, pp. 147 IF. 

M, Hagigak II, i. The reference is to the story of creation in Gen, i and to 
the vision of the four wheels in Ezek. i. So also Maimonides, for the same reason, 
enjoins secrecy in the teaching of metaphysics. Cf. Maimonides, Moreh Nehukim 
I, Introduction, 17, 33, 34, and 71; III, Introduction. Exod. 21; i. 

m Jer. ^Ahodah Zarah II, 8, 4id; cf. L. Ginzberg, ** Der Anteil R. Simons an der 
ihm zugeschriebenen Mechilta,** Festschrift zu Israel Lewfs suhztgstem Gehurtstage^ 
191 1, pp. 406-408. 



abilities, proper training, and moral character was timely 
and necessary. Like any religious rationalism in history, 
whether Greek before Philo or Christian, Moslem, and Jewish 
after Philo, Alexandrian Jewish rationalism was an attempt 
on the part of a chosen few to reconcile two extremes, a re- 
ligious tradition which was untouched by philosophy and a 
philosophy which was unconcerned with that tradition, or 
even unconscious of its existence. Alexandrian Judaism, like 
any other religious body either before it or after it, was not 
a religion of philosophers only. Not all Greek-speaking 
Jews read Plato: most of them read only the Septuagint, and 
some of them could not read at all, though by reason of the 
religious obligation to meditate in the Law day and night 
the rate of literacy among the Jews in Alexandria must have 
been higher than among non- Jews. 

Alexandrian Judaism at the time of Philo was of the same 
stock as Pharisaic Judaism, which flourished in Palestine 
at that time, both of them having sprung from that pre- 
Maccabean Judaism which had been molded by the activi- 
ties of the Scribes. Though in the new land to which it had 
been transported it subsequently developed certain peculiar 
local characteristics, it did not altogether detach itself from 
its native source, nor did it remain completely unaffected by 
the subsequent development of Judaism in Palestine. Juda- 
ism in Alexandria started upon its new career with an initial 
stock of oral traditions and an incipient method of scriptural 
interpretation, both of which it had brought from Palestine 
and continued to share in common with those who in Pales- 
tine subsequently became the Pharisees. But in their new 
environment some Alexandrian Jews came into possession 
of a new body of knowledge derived from Greek philosophy, 
and out of this new body of knowledge they developed a new 
method of the interpretation of Scripture, to which the name 


allegory was given, meaning thereby philosophic allegory 
exclusively. This new method of interpretation naturally 
gave rise to a new problem. On the one hand, those unaf- 
fected by philosophy were fully satisfied with the traditional 
method of interpretation, and proved themselves, therefore, 
indifferent to the new philosophical method of allegory; on 
the other hand, some of those who adopted the allegorical 
method somehow were led to disregard the traditional 
method. It was Philo’s purpose, therefore, to combine the 
traditional with the allegorical method, preventing the former 
from becoming hostile toward the latter and guarding the 
latter against breaking itself loose from the former. As in 
many instances under similar conditions in the later history 
of religions, Philo found it necessary to restrict the teaching 
of the philosophic interpretation of Scripture to properly 
qualified and properly equipped students. 

Specific references to the actual existence of two such ex- 
treme tendencies in Alexandrian Judaism, between which 
Philo was trying to hold the center, are to be found in the 
works of Philo himself. 

The traditionalists are usually described by him as up- 
holders of the literal meaning of texts, both in the legal and 
in the narrative part of Scripture, as against the allegorical 
interpretation of them. In one place, trying to justify his 
allegorical interpretation of a law on the ground of certain 
difficulties he finds in it if taken literally, he concludes: “Now 
whether in the plain and literal sense of the ordinance these 
things are consistent with each other is a matter for those 
who are in the habit of pursuing such investigations and are 
fond of them.” ‘ In another place, again, after enumerating 
certain difficulties in a certain law if taken literally, he con- 
cludes with the following words: “These things, then, and 

* Immut. 28 , 133 . 



other things of the same kind, may be urged in reply to those 
who are experts (o-o^to-rds) in the study of literal interpreta- 
tion.” ’ Similarly, with regard to the narrative part of 
Scripture, in connection with the story of the confusion of 
tongues, after quoting in the name of others certain objec- 
tions to it which he himself answers by giving to them an 
allegorical explanation, he refers to possible refutations of 
these objections by “those who can provide for all questions 
as they arise explanations from the plain letter of the law.” ’ 
Explanations of scriptural narratives from the plain letter of 
the text, as alternatives to his own allegorical explanations, 
are quoted by him also in the name of those whom he de- 
scribes as “some persons” {nonnulUY or “certain persons” 
{quidam)? From his references to these traditionalists it 
is quite evident that he calls them literalists not because he 
thought that they considered themselves bound by the letter 
of the Law, without allowing themselves any freedom of in- 
terpretation whatsoever, nor because he thought that they con- 
sidered the Law only as a collection of arbitrary commands 
and senseless stories in which there was no inner significance; 
he calls them literalists only because they were opposed to 
the philosophical kind of allegory advocated by him. In 
their own way they seem to have had their own method of 
interpretation and their own method of discovering in those 
commands and stories some inner meaning. The few ex- 
amples of their interpretation of the letter of scriptural nar- 
rative and the numerous examples of his own exposition 
of what he would describe as the letter of the law bear a 

* Somn. I, 16, 102. 3 Conf. 5, 14. 

4 in Gen, I, 8; 1 , 10; II, a8; II, 58. 

IMd., II, 64. ' C£. M. J. Shroyer, “Alexandrian Jev/ish Literalists,” Journal of 
Biblical Literature, 55 (1936), 261-284. Under the “Literalists” Shroyer also in- 
cludes (pp. 275-279) those of whom we shall treat later under the third class of 
apostates (cf. below, pp, 83 f,). 


close resemblance to the interpretations of the narrative and 
legal portions of Scripture by those rabbis who regarded 
themselves as opponents of the literalism attributed to the 
Sadducees. The literalists of Philo are presented by him as 
being conscious of problems and difficulties in the text of 
Scripture, as pursuing investigations of their own, as being 
able to match wits with captious critics, and as discovering 
moral lessons in scriptural stories. The term <To<j>i<TraC which 
he applies to them, we take it, is used by him here not in its 
derogatory sense of “sophists” but rather in its laudatory 
sense of “sages” and “experts.” Taken in this sense, it may 
reflect the Hebrew term hakamim, “sages,” which is one of 
the names by which the Pharisaic interpreters of the law are 
known. In fact, in Josephus, the Greek term mcpcaTai is used 
as the equivalent of the Hebrew hakamim, in the sense of 
men learned in the law.® 

As a philosopher, Philo was partly critical of them. But 
when we study carefully the thought behind his uttered 
words in the passages in which he expresses his criticism of 
the traditionalists, we shall find that he does not really argue 
against them but rather with them against themselves. His 
main criticism of them is that, by their refusing to interpret 
texts philosophically, they sometimes take Scripture to affirm 
views, especially about God, which upon a closer examina- 
tion of their own conscience they would themselves find ob- 
jectionable. Take, for instance, the verse stating that “God 
took to heart (ivedviJtiidri) that He had made man upon the 
earth, and He thought upon it (Sievoridr)); and God said, I 
will destroy man whom I have made from off the face of the 
earth.” ’’ This verse, he says, if not interpreted philosophi- 
cally, would imply that “ the Creator repented the 

« Bell . Jud , 1 , 33, 2, 648; II, 17, 8, 433; 9, 44J. 

: Gen. 6:6-7 (LXX). 



creation of men when He beheld their impiety, on which ac- 
count He determined to destroy the whole race,” ® but this 
would imply a change in God, and the implication of any 
change in God — we may complete his argument for him — 
would be rejected even by the traditionalists themselves on 
the simple ground of the explicit statement in Scripture that 
God “will not change (diroo-rp^^et) nor repent (ixeTavorjaei.), 
for He is not a man that He should repent.” ® Consequently, 
he accuses the traditionalists that by their rejection of philo- 
sophical interpretation of texts they act like unthinking 
persons who have not examined themselves (dj'eferao-Tot)*'’ 
and are therefore full of inconsistencies.” Similarly, he 
argues, the verse in which God says to Moses, “I have shown 
it to thine eyes, but thou shalt not enter therein,” ” if taken 
literally as meaning that Moses would not be allowed to 
enter into the Promised Land, would imply an injustice on 
the part of God in that He did not allow to Moses, who was 
one of the “friends of God,” that which He had granted to 
all others, who were only the “slaves” of God, but to assume 
that would be “ folly,” for — and here again we may com- 
plete his argument for him — Scripture explicitly says with 
regard to God that “all His ways are acts of judgment; a 
faithful God, He doth no injustice.” Consequently, he 
again accuses the traditionalists that by their rejection of 
philosophical interpretation they prove themselves to be in- 
considerate and thoughtless persons (direpiVKeirroi).*^ Fur- 
thermore, he seems to argue, the traditionalists, with all the 

* ImmuL 5, 21, 

9 I Sam. I5J29 (LXX). 

Immut. 5, 21, 

” Cf, Vlrt, 3, 10, where the expression h.v€^kraaroL Mptairot. is used to describe 
those who expose the inconsistencies (Avco/naXtas) of their soul by random talk. 

« Deut. 34:4. 

Deut. 32:4 (LXX). 

M Migr. 9, 44-45. 


minuteness with which they examine, after the manner ot 
the Scribes and Pharisees, the accuracy of every word and 
letter in Scripture, through their refusal to make use of phil- 
osophical allegory sometimes fail to live up to their own 
standard of accurate and precise study of the choice of words 
in scriptural texts (ot n'fi \lav ijKpL^oiix&oi), for only through 
the allegorical interpretation can one explain, for instance, 
why in one place Scripture uses the term “husbandman” 
(jeapybs) and in another the term “soil-worker” (yrjs 
ipy&rris), and why in one place it uses the term “shepherd” 
(icoipfiv) and in another the term “cattle-rearer” (KTr\vorp6- 

Now Philo has no objection to the traditional method of 
interpreting texts as such; he himself often follows that 
method of interpretation; but he insists that the philosophi- 
cal method of interpretation should be added to the tradi- 
tional. Take, for instance, the scriptural story about the 
four wells dug by the servants of Isaac.’*" This story, says 
Philo, may be taken by the traditionalists as a mere story of 
four wells dug by the servants of Isaac, but philosophers will 
take it to refer allegorically to the “four parts of the universe, 
land, water, air, heaven.” No objection to the literal inter- 
pretation of the story is raised by Philo; still, the traditional- 
ists, because in this particular instance they take the story 
to refer only to the small world of Isaac, are called by him 
“citizens of a petty state” (piKpoiroKlrai), whereas the alle- 
gorists, because they interpret the verse to refer to the parts 
of the universe, are described by him as “those on the roll of 
citizens of a greater country, namely, this whole world ” and 
as men of “more perfect wisdom.” ’’ There is no implication 

« Agr. 6, 26-29; cf. 5, 20-21; 9, 42-43; 13, 57. The references are to the use of 
these four terms respectively in (i) Gen. 9: 20; (2) Gen. 4: 2; (3) Gen. 30: 36, and 
Exod. 3:1; (4) Gen. 46:34. 

Gen. 26: 19, 21, 22, 32. 

•J Somn. 1 , 7, 39. 



in this statement, as we see it, of a general contrast between 
two conceptions of Judaism — the so-called narrow, nation- 
alistic conception of the traditionalists and the so-called 
broader, universal conception of the allegorists. Such a con- 
trast between two conceptions of Judaism is never con- 
sciously made by Philo. Judaism to him, as to the rabbis of 
his time, was both national and universal; and the synthesis 
of the two is fully developed by him, as we shall see, in his 
political theory, and especially in his view on the Messianic 
age.^® Similarly the verse, “a spring went up out of the 
earth and watered all the face of the earth,” may be taken 
by those “who are not initiated into allegory” to refer to a 
real spring which watered the land like the Nile, and Philo 
expresses no objection to such an interpretation; but still, 
he says, allegorically this spring means the mind.'*® Finally, 
in connection with the story of the confusion of tongues,*' of 
which he himself gives an allegorical interpretation,” he 
says explicitly, with regard to those who follow ^‘the out- 
ward and obvious” and take the story literally as an ex- 
planation of the origin of the Greek and barbarian languages, 
that he would “not blame (ainaa-apiepos) such persons, for 
perhaps the truth is with them also”; he would only exhort 
them “not to halt there but to proceed onward to figurative 

There is one passage which contains a derogatory descrip- 
tion of people who are evidently not allegorists, but it is not 
clear whether this passage refers to these traditionalists or not. 
In this passage Philo says that he would not expound his al- 
legorical interpretations of Scripture, which he calls here 

Cf. below, II, 354 ff., 415 fF* Fug. 32, 179 ff. 

Gen. 2: 6 (LXX). « Gen. n ; i fF. 

« Conf. 5, 15 flP. 

TMd. 38, 190. The term perhaps*" here is an expression of modesty, not of 
doubt. Cf. below, pp. 66, 125 f. 


“ the sacred mysteries,” to “ the superstitious ” and to “ those 
who are afflicted with the incurable disease of conceit, with 
petty quibbling (y\i.axpoTT]rL) about expressions and words, 
and with juggling tricks of manners, and who measure holi- 
ness and piety by no other standard.” If this passage were 
meant to be a characterization of the anti-allegoristic tra- 
ditionalists of Alexandria as a class, then we would have here 
a condemnation of the Alexandrian counterpart of the Pales- 
tinian Pharisees like that which we find among the rabbis of 
certain types of Pharisees and in the New Testament of all 
the Pharisees. But it is more likely that the condemnation 
in this passage refers to certain individuals who were to be 
found in all the classes of the Jewish population in Alex- 
andria rather than to the traditionalists alone as a whole. 
It will be noticed that one of the special characteristics as- 
cribed to these people is their “petty quibbling (y'KtcrxpoTrfs) 
about expressions and words.” Elsewhere, quite on the 
contrary, as we shall see, Philo makes the traditionalists 
condemn the allegorists for their “petty quibbling” (7X10-- 
XpokoyiaY^ about words. 

What the attitude of those traditionalists toward allegory 
exactly was may be gathered from two brief descriptions 
of them found in Philo. In one place he describes them as 
“drawing up the eyebrows overmuch” (}.lav rds kve- 

o-TraKores),*® that is to say, putting on a supercilious air and 
contemptuously dismissing allegorical explanations as some- 
thing worthless. In another place, where, in anticipation of 
an allegorical interpretation of the verse “thou shalt stand 
meeting him on the lip of the river,” he raises the question 
“why Moses speaks of the river of Egypt alone as having 
‘lips,’ ” he refers to some people who, “in a spirit of ridicule, 

Somn» Ij 17, 102, 

^7 Exod. 7: 15, 

^4 Chen 12, 42. 

Somn . II, 45, 301; cf. below, p. 64. 



may say that such points should not be brought into our in- 
quiries, for they savor of petty quibbling rather than of any 
profitable process.” ** 

From these two passages it is quite evident that the op- 
position to allegory attributed to the traditionalists by Philo 
is that characteristic of men who, not having been trained in 
philosophy, have no interest in it and see no use in it and 
are quite contented to abide by whatever interpretation 
tradition and the exigencies of life may suggest to them. 
These traditionalists also seem to have been oblivious of the 
social significance of the philosophical interpretation ot 
Scripture either as a means of satisfying the inquiring minds 
among the Jews or as a means of defending Judaism against 
the attacks of heathen writers. They display a self-confidence 
and self-contentment which flow from a consciousness of 
strength and from a faith in the loyalty of their adherents 
among the great masses of the Alexandrian Jews. Whether 
among these traditionalists of Alexandria there was also an 
opposition to philosophy on religious grounds, condemning 
it as a form of impiety or heresy, cannot be ascertained from 
the literature of the time. From the analogy of the form 
which the opposition to philosophy took in the later history 
of religions, whether Christian or Moslem or Jewish, one is 
not justified in assuming that such an opposition existed also 
in Alexandria, for later in the history of religions, again 
whether Christian or Moslem or Jewish, there were other 
factors, new and unprecedented, which gave rise to this kind 
of opposition to philosophy. 

These traditionalists are not represented in Hellenistic 
Jewish literature. All we know about them is derived from 
Philo’s references to them. That they should have left no 
written records of their interpretations of the Law is un- 

»* Somn, n, 45, 301. 


doubtedly due to the fact that these interpretations con- 
stituted what they, like the Palestinian Pharisees, regarded 
as oral law, and consequently, again, like the Palestinian 
Pharisees of that time, they did not allow themselves to 
commit it to writing.*’ Certain historical works in Hellen- 
istic Jewish literature, such as the Second and Third Books 
of Maccabees, may perhaps have come from their circle. But 
such an assumption can be based only upon the slender evi- 
dence of silence, that is, the absence in these works of any 
philosophical discussions. In the case of the Second Book of 
Maccabees one might perhaps add also the dubious evidence 
of its assertion of a belief in the resurrection of the body,’’ 
if one were only certain that the question of resurrection as 
against immortality was an issue upon which non-allegorists 
and allegorists were divided.’* The positive views expressed 
in these works, such as devotion to the Law, fidelity in its 
observance, and readiness to die for it, are such as Philo as 
well as all the other philosophers of his type could whole- 
heartedly subscribe to. There is no basis for the assumption 
that these works represent the view of the literalists as 
against those of Philo and of the other philosophers simply 
on the ground that they “speak in praise of ‘normative’ 
legalism” ’* or on the ground that they ask the Jews “to 

According to Stein (JPilon ha-Alexandroni, p. 68), the Alexandrian Jews did 
allow themselves to write down the oral law, and as evidence he points to Demetrius 
and Aristeas whose works contain some elements of oral law. This is inconclusive. 
It merely shows that in historical writings the authors allowed themselves to make 
casual references to oral laws. Similarly in Palestine those who composed historical 
books allowed themselves to make casual references to oral laws. No general con- 
clusion can therefore be drawn from this circumstance with regard to the legal 
authorities among the Alexandrian Jews. On the whole, the prohibition against 
writing down the oral law was subject to certain exceptions (cf. I. H, Weiss, Bor 
Dor ve-Dorshav^ I, Wilna, 1904, pp. 87-89). 

3 ® II Macc. 7:9; 7:23; 14:46. 

3 ^ Cf. below, pp. 396 if. 

3a Goodenough, By Eighty Light (Yale University Press, 1935), p. 5. 



die bravely for the law of their fathers, and to keep away 
from the mysteries of the Greeks.” To speak in praise of 
"normative legalism” and to bid the Jews to die for the law 
of their fathers and keep away from the mysteries of the 
heathen was something which Philo and all the Hellenistic 
philosophers have done in their writings. 

In contrast to those traditionalists who rejected philo- 
sophical interpretation altogether, there were those who in 
their excessive use of philosophic interpretation rejected the 
literal meaning of the law altogether. Philo refers to them 
as “some who, regarding the laws in their literal sense in the 
light of symbols of matters belonging to the intellect, are 
overpunctilious about the latter, while with light-hearted- 
ness they show but little esteem for the former.” Unlike 
the literalists, concerning whom he says that he would “not 
blame (alTLaa&nems) such persons, for perhaps the truth is 
with them also,” with regard to these extreme allegorists 
he says that “ such men for my part I should blame (nen4'aliJLT]v) 
for handling the matter with recklessness; for they ought to 
have given careful attention to both aims, to an accurate 
investigation of the invisible and also to an irreproachable 
observance of the visible.” But though he blames them 
and censures them and finds fault with them, he does not 
condemn them. He rather pleads with them, pointing out 
the error of their way and trying to rouse their own disap- 
proval of their own view. His pleas to them are threefold. 
First, he pleads that by disregarding the literal meaning of 
the law they place themselves in the position of defying pub- 
lic opinion and of impairing their reputation with their own 
people, consequences which he assumes they themselves 
would deplore if they only realized what they were doing. 

33 Shroyer, op. ctf.j p. 262. 
3^ Mfgr. 16, 89, 

35 Conf. 38, 190. Cf. above n. 23. 
3*5 Migr. i6j 89. 


“As it is/’ he says of them, “ as though they were living alone 
by themselves in a wilderness, or as though they had be- 
come disembodied souls, and knew neither city nor village 
nor household nor any company of human beings at all, over- 
looking all that the mass of men regard, they explore reality 
in its naked absoluteness.” But he reminds them that 
“sacred Scripture teaches these men to take heed of a good 
reputation,” and concludes that, by observing the laws, 
“one will escape blame and accusation from men in gen- 
eral.” Second, he reasons with them that the practical 
observance of the laws is of great antiquity and recalls to their 
mind that Scripture teaches “not to do away with any of 
the established customs which divinely empowered men 
greater than those of our time have laid down,” for these 
laws, he concludes with an appeal to their loyalty to Judaism, 
were bequeathed by Abraham as an inheritance to Israel.^^ 
Third, he tries to show to them the importance of the out- 
ward observance of the Law for the understanding and the 
preservation of its inner meaning, for, he says, the outward 
observance of the law and its inner meaning are related to 
each other as body and soul, and just as we must take care 
of the body because it is the abode of the soul, so also it is 
only through the outer observance of the law that we can 
gain a clearer conception of its inner meaning. He finally 
concludes this argument with a general exhortation to all and 
sundry that by attaching importance to the inner meaning 
of the laws about the Sabbath, the festivals, circumcision, 

37 iMd., 89-90. 

3* lifid., 90; cf. Prov. 4: 24 (cf. Ketuhot 2ab); 22: r. 

39 Ibid.^ 93. 

40 Ihid., 90. The reference is to his own interpretation in S;psc* IV, 28, 149-150, 
of the verse “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmarks which thy fore- 
fathers have set” (Deut. 19: 14). Cf, below, p, 192. 

41 lbid,<^ 94. 

42 Ibid.^ 93, 



and the Temple, we must not on that account “abrogate” 
(Kiufuv) or “give up” (aroTa^dineda) or “abolish” (apQ^u- 
li€v) or “neglect” {a/xeX'riaofiev) these laws/^ 

From this analysis of Philo’s discussion of the extreme 
allegorists, we gather the general impression that they were 
a group of well-meaning though rather misguided people who 
did not themselves realize the implications of their own view, 
and Philo felt that all he needed was to point out to them 
those implications in order to make them turn aside from the 
error of their way. This impression is still further deepened 
when we compare Philo’s description of this group of allego- 
rists with his description elsewhere of another group of alle- 
gorists, the Therapeutae, His description of this group of 
extreme allegorists as being overpunctilious in regarding the 
laws as “symbols of matters belonging to the intellect” is 
reminiscent of his description of the Therapeutae as those 
who “read the Holy Scriptures and seek wisdom from their 
ancestral philosophy by taking it as an allegory, since they 
think that the words of the literal text are symbols of some- 
thing whose hidden nature is revealed by studying the un- 
derlying meaning.” But still, in contradistinction to the 
Therapeutae, who are described by him as being observant 
of the literalness of the Law,'*® these extreme allegorists are 
said by him to show little esteem for it. Again, unlike the 
Therapeutae, who formed an organized community in the 
neighborhood of Alexandria, these extreme allegorists are 

IMd.^ 9i~9X 

Conu 3, 128. 

They observe the Sabbath and the other holidays {pont* 3, 30 IF.) and are 
described as “disciples of Moses’" (7, 63; 8, 64). Cf. F. C. Conybeare, Thtlo on the 
Contemplative Life, pp. 301 and 316. In one thing alone Conybeare finds them in 
departure from ordinary Judaism, and that is the celibacy of women {ibid,, pp 
316-317). According to rabbinic law, however, the commandment to perpetuate 
the human species by marriage (Gen. i*. a8) was not binding upon women {M, Ye* 


represented as isolated individuals scattered within the 
Alexandrian Jewish community/* Like the Therapeutae, 
however, they are possessed of a longing to flee from active 
life in order to commune with God. This would seem to 
have been a common tendency among Jews in Alexandria, 
especially among those trained in philosophy. Philo repeat- 
edly refers to those who, “filled as with pure wine, with 
the longing for holiness, bade a long farewell to all other 
affairs and offered up their own lives wholly to the service of 
God”;'*^ and he refers to himself as having once been in- 
spired by such a desire.'*® Unlike the Therapeutae, there- 
fore, who sought to gain communion with God through both 
contemplation and work in a specially organized social set- 
ting and by means of a religious discipline based upon tra- 
ditional Jewish customs, these extreme allegorists remained 
individual recluses within the madding rush of everyday life 
in Alexandria, each by himself seeking the way to God 
through his own individual effort, outside organized religious 
life, and without the aid of other kindred spirits. As detached 
individuals, in search of the perfection of their own souls 
through the life of pure contemplation, they gradually 
drifted away from the common life of the community into 
a neglect, and often into an open violation, of the Law — that 
Law which they themselves admitted to be of divine origin; 
and they did so without perhaps having ever openly de- 
clared that the Law was never meant to be literally observed, 
and certainly without having ever openly demanded its abro- 
gation. Or, perhaps, they may have developed the view that 
for the selected few like themselves, devoted as they were to 

Gfrorer, I, p. 106, however, takes Philo’s characterization of these extreme 
allegorists in the passage, “as though they were living alone by themselves in a 
wilderness, etc.,” quoted above (n. 37), as being aimed at the Therapeutae. 

Decal. 22, 108. 

4 * Leg. All. II, 21, 85. 



the study of the Law and to the discovery of its inner mean- 
ing, the Law was never meant to be followed literally in all 
its details: the literal observation of the Law was meant to 
be binding only upon the common run of men who needed 
it as a moral discipline and an intellectual symbol. From all 
that Philo tells us about them, they never consciously sep- 
arated themselves from the body of Alexandrian Judaism, 
nor have they militantly tried to propagate their views. 
Quite on the contrary, from Philo’s description of them 
we gather the impression that, in their absorption in 
their own individual perfection, they have become oblivious 
to the social implications of their own personal neglect of the 
observance of the Law. In his reasoning with them he as- 
sumes that they still possessed a sense of regard for the pub- 
lic opinion of the Alexandrian Jewish community and a 
sense of loyalty to ancient Jewish traditions, that they could 
still be swayed by the mention of the example of men of past 
Jewish history, and that they could still be convinced of the 
disciplinary value of Jewish practices as the only means 
which could lead to the life of contemplation. 

If we are right in our analysis of Philo’s description of this 
group of extreme allegorists, then we may dismiss as histori- 
cally unfounded the view that they constituted a distinct sect 
within Hellenistic Judaism and that they were militantly 
engaged, in anticipation of Paul, in the struggle for the abro- 
gation of the Law, and that as such, therefore, they had 
placed themselves outside the Jewish community.'*’ Still 

M. Friedlander, (i) Das Jtidenthum in der vorchrisi lichen griechUchen 

PP* 5 ^“‘ 57 > (^) Geschichtederjudischen Apologetik als Vorgeschichte des Christen • 
thumsy 1903, pp. 438-440; (3) Die religiosen Bewegungen innerhalb des Judentums im 
Zeitalter JesUy 1905, pp. 28a-a86. Cf. review of the last of these books by D. 
Feuchtwang in Monatsschrijt Jilr Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums^ 50 
(1906), pp. 497-509; cf. also J. Kiausner, From Jesus to Pauly Eng. tr. by W. F. 
Stinespring (The Macmillan Company, I943)> PP* 27-28. 


less historically founded is the view that the alleged anti- 
nomian teachings of these allegorists are represented in the 
Fourth Sibylline Oracle.^® The basis for this latter view is 
twofold. First, in that Fourth Oracle the Sibyl proclaims to 
the gentiles that those happy men who “truly love the al- 
mighty God” and who, like pious Jews, “bless Him before 
eating and drinking . , . shall, when they see them, disown 
all temples and altars, vain erections of senseless stones, 
befouled with constant blood of living things and sacrifices.”®’ 
Second, the Sibyl sheds no tears when she refers to the de- 
struction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the lines, “To Solyma 
too the evil blast of war shall come from Italy, and shall lay 
in ruins God’s great temple.” Neither of these two pas- 
sages proves an antinomian tendency. A Jew trained upon 
the teaching of Scripture and post-scriptural Jewish tradi- 
tions as to the relative importance of sacrifices and other 
means of worshiping God — especially a Jew living after 
the destruction of the Temple, when evidently this Oracle 
was composed *'• — did not have to be an opponent of the 
observance of the Law in order to tell the gentiles that the 
worship of the Jewish God does not depend upon a temple 
and altars and sacrifices.®® 

These three tendencies in Alexandrian Judaism, the tra- 
ditional, the allegorical, and the extremely allegorical, thus 
did not constitute sects. They merely represented a certain 
conflict of ideas the like of which will be found existing sub- 
sequently in both Christianity and Judaism during the peri- 
ods of their greatest internal unity. They represent that 
conflict of ideas which is inevitably bound to appear in any 

s® Idem^ op. cit. (i), p. 58. 53 115-116. 

5 ^ Sibylline Oracles IV, Cf. below, II, 241 ff. 

The date generally given is that of about 80 a.d. Cf. Introduction to this book 
in Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha oj the Old Testament^ II, p. 373. 

ss Some take the author to be an Essene or a Christian. 



religion based upon a Scripture and a native tradition when 
on its coming in contact with a philosophy from another 
source attempts are made on the part of some to reconcile 
the two. The great mass of believers who will not have felt 
the impact of the foreign philosophy will see no need of any 
reconciliation between them. This great mass of believers 
will either remain indifferent to the innovations of the phil- 
osophic reconcilers, or will superciliously look upon them as 
mere triflers, or, if given provocation, will militantly oppose 
them as disturbers of the religious peace. Among the recon- 
cilers themselves there are bound to appear all kinds of 
shades of opinion, differing as to the relative proportion of 
the traditional ingredients and philosophical ingredients that 
should be properly entered into the mixture. In such con- 
flicts there are bound to appear extreme views which, if hard 
pressed, might transform a mere internal conflict of ideas into 
an open schism. There is no hard and fast rule by which one 
can determine with accuracy when an internal conflict of 
ideas ends and a schism begins. But on the whole one may 
say that a schism in any religion appears when a conflict of 
ideas leads to the establishment of separate institutions of 
worship and discipline or to a struggle for the control of 
institutions already in existence. Such a struggle for con- 
trol, we know, was going on in Palestine at the time of Philo 
between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the stake in the 
struggle being the control of the Temple and of the Sanhe- 
drin. No such struggle, as far as we know, existed in Alex- 
andria. The synagogues there were the houses of prayer and 
study for both the literalists and the philosophers. The ex- 
treme allegorists, as we have seen from our analysis of the 
only reference to them in Philo, tried neither to get control 
of the existent synagogues nor to set up rival synagogues of 
their own. Even the Therapeutae, in their own community, 


with the exception of their ascetic manner of living, did not 
depart from the established traditions and customs of the 
people. Nor is there any indication of a partisan conflict in 
Alexandrian Judaism for the control of such social institu- 
tions as the gerusia and the courts of justice. 

But besides the traditionalists whom Philo does “not 
blame” for their disregard for the allegorical interpretation 
of Scripture, and the extreme allegorists whom he does 
“blame” for their neglect of the literalness of Scripture, 
there were those whom he condemns as “ apostates (aTroar&v- 
T6s) from the holy laws,” 5* as outlaws (hvoijoi) and lawless 
and as captious critics of theLaw,®* who denounce 
and decry and deride the law,” and whom he places under 
the anathema of the curses proclaimed by Moses in the name 
of God against all those who in the future would break their 
covenant with God.®° 

From the various passages in which he touches upon 
apostasy it may be gathered that Philo has distinguished 
three types of apostates. 

First, those who forsook Judaism out of the weakness of 
the flesh. There are “apostates from the holy laws,” says 
Philo, who, being incontinent, “have sold their freedom for 
luxurious food . . . and beauty of body, thus ministering to 
the pleasures of the belly and the organs below it.” Now 
the desire for luxurious eating is that which, according to 
Philo, the dietary laws of the Pentateuch are meant to re- 
strain; and the desire for the beauty of body is that which 
would usually lead to marriage with heathens, which kind of 
marriage is prohibited, according to Philo, by the law of the 

yirt. 34, 182. Cf. below, n. io8. 

57 Praem. 20, 126. 59 Cf. below, nn. 109-113. 

Lev. 26; 15 ff,; Deut. 28: 15 ff. Cf. Praem, 20, 126 ff., and cf, 26, 152. 

VirU 34, 182. Cf, III Macc. 7; ii: “Those who for their belly’s sake had 
transgressed the divine command,” ^ Spec, IV, 17, 100 ff. 



Pentateuch.®^ Accordingly, what he means to say here is that 
among the Jews of his time and place apostasy from the Law 
started in some cases with those who, out of a lack of self- 
restraint, broke away from the dietary laws and from the 
laws prohibiting marriage with the heathen. From a strictly 
legal point of view, perhaps, the dietary laws and the pro- 
hibition of intermarriage are no more weighty than many of 
the other prohibitive commands in the Pentateuch. But, 
owing to the fact that the breaking of these laws proved to 
be, by common observation, the beginning of the breaking 
away of the social barriers between Jew and non-Jew which 
ultimately led to a complete abandonment of Judaism, these 
laws were raised, by the time of Philo, both in Palestine and 
in the Diaspora, to the status of a fundamental religious 
principle. Among the rabbis in Palestine, an apostate with 
reference to the eating of forbidden meat was singled out for 
special mention,®'* and new dietary laws were added pro- 
hibiting the partaking of certain foods or drinks of gentiles.®* 
Similarly, intermarriage came to be regarded by the rabbis 
as a form of apostasy on a par with the worship of Moloch ®® 
or with heathenism in general,®’ and the prohibition of inter- 
marriage, which in the Pentateuch applies only to the origi- 
nal inhabitants of Canaan,®® was extended by them to apply 

"j Ihii. in, 5, 29. 

^Ahodah Zarah 26b. 

See below, n, 70. 

^ Midrash Tannaim on Deut. 18: 9, p. 109, and cf. Sifre Beut., § 171, HF, p. 
219: “ ‘Whosoever he be of the children of Israel . . . that giveth of his seed unto 
Moloch; he shall surely be put to death’ (Lev. 20: 2), Rabbi Ishmael says: this 
refers to one who cohabits with an Aramean woman and begets from her a son who 
is a hater of God.” 

<*7 Sanhedrin 82a: “Said Rabbi Hiyya bar Abuyah: he who cohabits with a 
Cuthean woman is as if he connects himself with idols, for it is said, ‘Judah hath 
dealt treacherously . . . and hath married the daughter of a strange god’ (MaL 2: 

Exod. 34: Deut. 7: 3-4. 



to all other heathens/^ The reasoning underlying these new 
prohibitions is summed up in the statement that the rabbis 
prohibited ‘‘the bread and oil of the heathen on account of 
their wine, and their wine on account of their daughters, and 
their daughters on account of idolatry/' Similarly, among 
the Hellenistic Jews, both Philo and the Fourth Book of 
Maccabees dwell upon the importance of the dietary laws 
as a moral discipline, and in the latter work they are treated 
as a symbol of any law for which a Jew is to give up his life 
if forced openly to violate it/^ And so also in the case of 
intermarriage, Philo's restatement of the scriptural law as- 
sumes that the prohibition applies to all heathen, and not 
only to the original inhabitants of Canaan; and, taking his 
cue from Scripture, he tries to show how intermarriage must 
inevitably lead to heathenism. An indirect allusion to 
apostasy with reference to intermarriage may also be dis- 
cerned in Philo’s description of the apostate as “a man of 
noble descent who has debased the coinage (xapa/co^as to 
voiJLKXfjLa) of his noble birth/'^^ This metaphor is used by Philo 
often as a general description of the breaking of any estab- 
lished law, but always with the connotation that the break- 
ing of the law in question involved the adulteration of some- 
thing which is pure by nature or birth/^ Consequently, when 
he speaks here of an apostate as having “debased the coinage 
of his noble birth," he means not only that he has been dis- 
loyal to the laws inherited from his fathers but also that he 
has been led to this disloyalty by his marriage to a heathen. 

^9 On the history of the laws with regard to intermarriage in rabbinic literature, 
see L. M, Epstein, Marriage Laws in the Bible and Talmud (Cambridge: Harvard 
University Press, 1942), pp, 1 53-177* 

70 Shabhat 17b. 73 Ihid.^^ 5:27 fF.; cf. Sanhedrin 74a. 

71 Spec, IV, 17, 100 ff. 74 Spec. Ill, 5, 29. 

72 IV Mac. 5: 6 ff. Braem, 26, 152. 

76 Sacr, 40, 137; MuU 31, 171; 37, 208; Spec. I, 45, 250; I, 60, 325; III, 7, 38; 
Cont. 5, 41. 



From Philo’s description of this class of people as having 
sold their “freedom ” (eKevdepia) it is quite evident that he 
does not deal here merely with men who, while remaining 
within the Jewish community, have out of the weakness of 
the flesh violated the dietary laws and the laws of intermar- 
riage, but rather with those who, starting with the breaking 
of these laws, have been led to a complete abandonment of 
Judaism. “Freedom” here is used by Philo in the sense of 
that which only the virtuous man possesses,’® and the virtu- 
ous man among Jews is he who obeys the law,” for he alone 
is free who, like Abraham, is a “friend of God” and emanci- 
pated from “vain opinion.” ®“ These apostates, therefore, 
by forsaking the Law, are described by him as having sold 
their “freedom.” There can be no doubt that in the Alex- 
andrian Jewish community, as in any other Jewish com- 
munity throughout history, and in Palestine itself at the 
time of Philo, there were many Jews who out of the weakness 
of the flesh ate forbidden food and married forbidden women. 
As a preacher he undoubtedly urged them to mend their 
ways. But these did not constitute any special problem in 
Alexandrian Judaism, beyond the general problem of human 
imperfection and human sinfulness. In one place, speaking 
of those who have sinned “by necessity, overwhelmed by 
the force of an inexorable power,” by which, as he says 
later, he means those who have sinned “involuntarily,” ®’ by 
their inability to resist temptation, he does not condemn 
them too harshly. He says of them that they “deserve pity 
rather than hatred.” The pity which they deserve is evi- 
dently for the regret and the plague of conscience by which 
they will be beset. Without a word of condemnation or re- 

77 Cf. above, p. 73. So^r, ii, 55-57. 

7* Frobus I, I, Post a, 9 . 

79 Cf. below, II. 192 fF. ** Ibid, 3, 10. Ibid, 2, 9. 


proach he describes this common garden variety of sinners 
among Alexandrian Jews as having a consciousness of sin and 
as being occasionally moved to repentance, for in a passage 
in which he speaks of the Day of Atonement as a day “of 
purification and escape from sin” and as a day of “repent- 
ance,” he says that that fast day is “ carefully observed not 
only by the zealous for piety and holiness but also by those 
who never act religiously in the rest of their life.” ** There 
was evidently no professional class of religious leaders among 
Alexandrian Jews to acclaim the increasing sins of their 
patrons as successive stages in the progress of their religion. 
These casual and regretful transgressors of the law who re- 
mained within the Jewish fold are therefore to be distin- 
guished from those described by Philo as apostates who have 
come to their apostasy through the transgression of the 
dietary and connubial laws. 

Another motive of apostasy discussed by Philo is that 
which may be described as the vulgar delusion of social am- 
bition. Wealth in the Alexandrian Jewish community was 
derived from the non- Jewish environment through contacts 
with heathens. Such contacts with heathens thus became 
financial assets, and financial assets naturally became marks 
of a delusive social distinction, and the delusion of social 
distinction, in turn, led to snobbishness, obsequiousness, 
self-efliacement, aping, simulation, pretense, and ultimately 
to a begging for permission to join whatever one had to join 
in order to become a heathen. This, we imagine, was the 
progressive pilgrimage of certain Alexandrian Jews from a 
seat in the front row of the synagogue to a place at the tail 
end of the mystery processions of the heathen. Philo gives 
us a vivid description of this class of apostates. “Men in 

‘■I spec. I, 3S, 187. 

»5 JM., iS 6 . 



general,” he says, “even if the slightest breeze of prosperity 
does only blow their way for a moment, become puffed up 
and give themselves great airs, becoming insolent to all those 
who are in a lower condition than themselves, and calling 
them dregs of the earth, and annoyances, and sources of 
trouble, and burdens of the earth, and all sorts of names of 
that kind . . . look down upon their relations and friends 
and transgress the laws under which they were born and 
bred, and subvert the ancestral customs to which no blame 
can justly attach, by adopting different modes of life, and, 
in their contentment with the present, lose all memory of 
the past.” To adopt different modes of life and to lose all 
memory of the past naturally means to become completely 
severed from the body Israel. 

Besides those who sank down into apostasy through a de- 
sire for easy living and those who thought they had climbed 
up into apostasy through a delusion of social distinction, 
there was in Alexandria a class of apostates who dropped out 
of Judaism through an unconscious shifting of intellectual in- 
terest. They were the intellectually uprooted. 

We are apt to think that all Alexandrian Jews, because 
they spoke Greek, began their education by reciting Homer 
in Greek schools together with their heathen schoolmates, 
and, after a lifetime of active participation in the cultural 
affairs of the city, spent their declining years in some corner 
of the Alexandrian library discussing with old heathen cro- 
nies some passage in Plato or Aristotle or Zeno. But from 
what we know of political and social conditions in that 
heterogeneously populated city we have reason to conclude 
that there was as little intellectual contact of a personal 
nature between Jew and heathen in Alexandria as there was 
centuries later, in the Middle Ages, when both Jew and 

w Mos. 1 , 6 , 30-31. 


Christian studied Aristotle, and Christians quoted Mai- 
monides from a Latin translation and Jews translated St. 
Thomas into Hebrew. In Alexandria, the city did not pro- 
vide a common elementary school system for all the groups 
of the population.®’ Whatever elementary education ex- 
isted was furnished privately. In the case of Egyptians and 
Greeks, elementary education is known to have been of a 
religious nature,®® and so also must it have been in the case 
of the Jews. Gymnasia and ephebea, which served as centers 
of higher education, were similarly of a religious nature,®’ 
and were primarily Greek institutions, from which, we know, 
Egyptians were excluded and so undoubtedly were also 
Jews.’’ Jewish higher education, whether of a purely re- 
ligious nature or of a general nature, was provided by the 
Jews themselves, either in school houses attached to syna- 
gogues, as in Palestine, or in the synagogue houses them- 
selves, and this higher education naturally was under the 
auspices of Jewish teachers. Philo himself refers to the cus- 
tom of Alexandrian Jews of occupying themselves every Sab- 
bath day with the “philosophy of their fathers” as well as 
with the “speculation about problems concerning nature,” 
that is, problems of general philosophy, in “places of instruc- 
tion” (SiSaor/caXeia).®* Of such “places of instruction” he 
says in another passage that they are “innumerable in every 
city” and that people receive there instruction in “philoso- 
phy” from teachers whom he describes as being “most ex- 
perienced” (iixireLporaroi,).^^ In this passage, “philosophy ” is 
defined by him as dealing both with “ duty to God ” and with 

*7 Cf. L. Mitteis-U. Wilcken, Grundziige und Chrestomathu der Fapyruskmde^ 
I, i, p. 137; cf. W. W. Tarn, Hellenistic Civilization'* ^ p. 174. 

Cf. L. Mitteis-U. Wilcken, op, cit,, p. 137. 

*9 Cf. ihid,y p. 140. 

90 Cf. ibid. 

9^ Cf, below, n. 105. 

Mas. II, 39, 216. 

93 Spec. II, 15, 61-62. 



“duty to men,” that is, theology and ethics.” “Philoso- 
phy” as the subject of study on the Sabbath is also men- 
tioned by him in another place, and there it is defined by him 
as dealing with “the improvement of morals and the exami- 
nation of conscience.” In still another passage he speaks 
of the interpretation of the Law to the people in the syna- 
gogues on the Sabbath day by “some priest who is present 
or one of the elders.” This synagogal school for higher 
education must have been so well established in the tradi- 
tion of the Alexandrian Jews that when the Therapeutae 
organized a community of their own outside of Alexandria 
they continued that kind of school, calling it “ the sanctuary ” 
(to o-ejuvetov).’* These “places of instruction,” which, accord- 
ing to Philo, were used on Sabbaths as centers of higher re- 
ligious as well as of secular education for the great mass of 
Alexandrian Jews, must have been used during the rest of 
the week as school houses for higher education for the youth 
of the community, and perhaps also as centers of all kinds 
of other activities. 

Besides such “places of instruction ” for the “philosophy of 
their fathers” and “speculation about problems concerning 
nature,” Alexandrian Jews at the time of Philo must have 
had also other kinds of educational and cultural organiza- 
tions. In an inscription from Asia Minor of a later period 
there is thus reference to a young men’s Jewish sporting or- 
ganization.®’ Organizations of this kind may have also ex- 
isted in Alexandria during the time of Philo, and perhaps also 

M 63. ss Cf. below, p. 147. 9 ® Opif, 43, 128. 

97 Hypoth, 7, 13 (Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica VIII, 7, 359d-36oa). 

9 * Cont, 3, 30-32. Cf, F, C, Conybeare, Philo about the Contemplative Life, p. 
310, §LI, on the question whether this sanctuary was the synagogue itself or a school 
attached to the synagogue. 

99 Cf. A. Tscherikower, Ea-^ehudim oe-ha-Y evanim haYe^ufah ha-Hellenistit^ 
p. 358; E, Schurer, Geschkhte des jUdischen Volkes m Zeitalter Jesu Christi III, p. 
15J S. Reinach, “Les Juifs d'Hypaepa,” Revue des ktudes JuiveSy 10 (1885), pp. 74 


young men’s Jewish dramatic organizations, where Greek 
plays, as well as the dramatization of Biblical themes by 
Hellenistic Jewish writers such as Ezekiel, the tragic poet, 
were also presented. When Philo, therefore, speaks of his 
own presence at a contest of Pancratiasts,”" or at chariot 
races,”^ or at the performance of a tragedy by Euripides,'^ 
it may refer to events which took place in such strictly Jew- 
ish organizations, or it may perhaps only indicate that he 
had the curiosity to see these things performed by non-Jews 
and had the money to pay the admission fee; it does not in- 
dicate any participation, even on the part of men of the type 
of Philo, in the general sporting and intellectual life of the 
city. Similarly, when he discusses the relative position of the 
various branches of liberal disciplines and philosophical 
studies in a school curriculum,*”’ his discussion may perhaps 
reflect conditions in the school in which he himself was edu- 
cated, but in that case that school was under Jewish auspices 
and undoubtedly attached to a synagogue. More likely his 
discussion is not drawn from actual experience; it is merely 
a restatement of the Stoic theories of the order of studies for 
the purpose of making use of them in his allegorical interpre- 
tation of the scriptural story of Sarah and Hagar.*”'* 

Among Alexandrian Jews, however, there were no doubt 
some whose contacts with non-Jews in trade or profession, 
in military life or in the administration of civil government, 
led to a closer contact with non-Jews both socially and 
intellectually. Despite the exclusion of Jews from the gym- 
nasia and ephebea, some Jews must have managed to gain 
that privilege for their children. Shortly after the time of 


xoi promd, 2 , 58 (Eusebius, Prae^aratio EvangelicaYllly 14, 397a);AucIier,II,io3. 
loa Probus 20, 141. 

Congr, 14, 73 ff. 

Gen. 16; 1-6. 



Philoj Claudius, evidently with reference to those Jews who 
had managed to intrude themselves where they were not 
wanted, bids the Jews of Alexandria not “to strive in gym- 
nastic or cosmetic games,” that is to say, he bids them not 
to send their children to gymnasia and ephebea. Perhaps 
there were also some Jews who had managed to place their 
children in private heathen Greek schools. There must have 
thus arisen in Alexandria a class of educated Jews, well 
versed in the arts and the sciences and philosophy, but de- 
void of any religious training — not only Jewish but also 
heathen — having therefore no interest in the application 
of philosophy to religion, either for the defense of Judaism 
or for the defense of heathenism. They constituted the free- 
thinkers of the time, those who were usually referred to as 
atheists, by which was primarily meant those who denied 
divine providence — a doctrine which, after a manner, was 
defended also by heathen philosophers. Philo’s own nephew, 
Tiberius Julius Alexander, with whom Philo debated the 
problem of divine providence in his treatise “On Provi- 
dence,” seems to have belonged to those uprooted Jewish 
intellectuals. To such uprooted Jewish intellectuals, all the 
attempts of the Jewish philosophers within the Jewish com- 
munity to show that scriptural stories are superior to my- 
thology and that the method of philosophic allegory can be 
properly applied only to Scripture and never to mythology 
seemed only evidence of narrow-mindedness. To them 
Scripture was no better than mythology; and perhaps to 
some of them it was even worse. 

These uprooted Jewish intellectuals, whether they found it 
advantageous to themselves to join any of the numerous 
heathen religious thiasoi or not, certainly had no reason to 

H. J. Bell, Jew and Christians in Egypt (Oxford University Press, 1924), p. 
25,11. 92-93, and p. 29. 


remain within the religious Jewish community. External 
political and social and economic conditions of the time did 
not force de-Judaized Jews to cast in their lot, despite them- 
selves, with the Jewish community. Still less did external 
conditions force them to assume communal or religious 
leadership. It was comparatively easy at that time for a Jew 
to escape Judaism.^"® Those at that time who cut themselves 
off from the body Jewish cut themselves off completely, 
leaving no dangling shreds of festering dead tissue. They 
wrote neither books against Jews nor books about Jews. Nor 
did any of them try to remake Judaism into a sort of inferior 
heathenism, with Dionysus or Serapis as central figures — 
if not as deities, then at least as prophets by the side of 
Moses. Perhaps some of these apostates, either for devious 
reasons of some practical advantages or for the simple reason 
that it was easier for them to lose their relish for the God of 
their fathers than for the cooking of their mothers, had re- 
mained within the Jewish part of the city, though without 
being part of its religious life; and, with all their indifference 
toward Judaism, they could not completely refrain from 
taunting their fellow Jews, especially the philosophers among 
them, for maintaining that Scripture was of divine origin 
and that its stories were something superior to the mythologi- 
cal fables of the Greeks. Now, in Palestinian Judaism of 
about that time, as may be gathered from its literature, such 
“deniers of the divine revelation of the Law” were regarded 
not as ordinary sinners but rather as those who have con- 
verted themselves completely to heathenism.’"^ 

It is apostates of this kind that Philo relers to as “ma- 
licious critics” (KaKOT€xvovvre%') of the Law, who “areimpu- 

Tscherikower {op, cii.^ p. 302), however, thinks that ‘*the Jews enjoyed many 
special privileges, and it was not therefore always worth while for them to forgo 
these privileges in order to join the Greek community.” 

Sanhedrin XIII, 5. 



dently bold in inventing objections” (evpea-iXoySit' $pa<r{jv7}Tai) 
against it.”® It is apostates of this kind, too, that he has in 
mind when, in his discussion of the story of the confusion 
of tongues, he says: “Those who are discontented with the 
constitution of our fathers and always seek for an oppor- 
tunity to denounce and decry the laws find in these and simi- 
lar passages openings as it were for their godlessness, for, say 
these impious persons: ‘Can you still speak seriously of the 
ordinances as containing the canons of absolute truth? For 
see, your so-called holy books contain also myths, at which 
you are accustomed to laugh when you hear them related by 
others.’” It is apostates of this kind among whom he 
suspects there may be found “some one who may laugh” 
{dertdeai) at the story of God’s making garments of skins 
for Adam and his wife,”" or some who, described by him as 
“being wholly foolish and keeping aloof from the divine 
company,” “mock” at the story of God’s changing the name 
of Abram to Abraham,”^ or some who, again described by 
him as “unrefined and inept by nature,” as “unable to dis- 
cern any form of virtue,” and as “lacking in knowledge and 
wisdom and prudence,” see in the story of the pottage sold 
by Jacob nothing but an object of “laughter and deri- 
sion.” Undoubtedly among these uprooted Jewish intel- 
lectuals there were also materialists and other kinds of athe- 
ists, but we do not think that it was Jews of this kind in 
particular that Philo has in mind when he takes the Am- 
monites and the Moabites, in the verse excluding them from 
the congregation of the Lord,^'® as referring to champions of 

Agr> 36, 157. Ihid. Ill, 43. 

”9 Conf. 2, 2. Gen, 25:29. 

in Gen, I, 53. ^^3 in Gen, IV, 168. 

“4 Which is the view of M. Friedlander, Geschichte der jiidischen Apologetiky etc,y 
pp, 443-446; Die religidsen Bewegungen^ etc,y pp. 487-488. 

”5 Deut. 23:4. 


the senses and champions of the mind.”® As we shall see in 
a subsequent chapter,”'' this allegorical interpretation of the 
verse is part of Philo’s more comprehensive criticism of vari- 
ous schools of Greek philosophy, in conformity with his view 
that Scripture not only approves in anticipation whatever 
is good in philosophy but also rejects in anticipation what- 
ever is false in it. 

The picture which we have tried to draw of Alexandrian 
Judaism is that of a community united in its essential be- 
liefs and practices. By the constant attrition and attraction 
of the environment, every upgrowth of dissent was worn 
away and carried off; those who remained within did so by 
choice and out of a sense of unity and loyalty. Whatever 
differences of opinion existed among them with regard to the 
interpretation of the Law — whether it should be traditional 
or allegorical and, if allegorical, to what extent — they all 
believed in the divine origin of the Law and in its perfection. 
This belief was their justification, to the world at large and 
to their own selves, for their continued existence as a people 
apart, which they knew was a source of annoyance to others 
and which, being only human, they must have occasionally 
felt also as a burden upon themselves. They all also pre- 
sented a common attitude toward the religion and culture 
of the outside world, and this they proclaimed courageously 
and forthrightly — 'Greek religion was false; Greek philosophy 
was an inferior form of Judaism. That courage and forth- 
rightness was caught by early Christianity, when it was only 
a struggling minority in a pagan world, and, with but one 
slight change in the wording, it repeated the same proclama- 
tion — Greek religion was false; Greek philosophy was an 
inferior form of Christianity. Indeed, Alexandrian Jews 
craved good-will, but good-will to them meant to bury the 
Cf. Sfec. I, 6I3 333 ff. Cf. below, ch. in, pp. 167 ff. 



hatchet; it did not mean to bury convictions and cover up 
differences. They never fawned, they never crawled, they 
never yielded what they considered to be the truth. 

With all their endeavor to present Judaism to the world in 
an understandable and acceptable form, the Alexandrian 
Jewish writers never compromised with popular Greek re- 
ligion or mythology or the mysteries. They never tried to 
present the Jewish God as any of the gods of popular religion, 
or Jewish tradition as myths, or Jewish religious rites as 
rites of mysteries. If they ever happen to use certain com- 
mon Greek divine epithets with reference to God, it is only 
because the use of such epithets is justified by corresponding 
descriptions of God in Scripture; and then, too, they use 
them always with the proviso, often expressed, that only 
their own God is worthy of such epithets. If they ever hap- 
pen to use mythological allusions, it is only as literary forms 
of expression and then, too, always with the proviso, some- 
times expressed, that the use of a mythological allusion 
should not be taken as an expression of belief in the myth 
alluded to. If they ever happen to use the terminology of 
the mysteries in their presentation of Jewish rites, it is either 
for the purpose of emphasizing the contrast between the re- 
ligion of the Jews and the mysteries of the heathen, or 
because the terms derived from the mysteries have become 
part of the common speech and are used in a sense completely 
divorced from their original meaning. Indeed they did try to 
present Judaism as a philosophy, but philosophy had to 
yield to Judaism on every point on which the two met in real 
conflict. This was the common attitude of all the Hellenistic 
Jewish philosophers before Philo, and this, we shall now try 
to show, is what we have found to be the attitude of Philo 
in all his philosophic writings. 



1. Behind the Allegorical Method 

Of all the writings of Philo, which bear thirty-eight 
titles,' four are treatises on certain special problems of phi- 
losophy,® with only occasional references to Scripture or Jews 
in two of them.* All the others are primarily of Jewish con- 
tent, and of these, with the exception of three treatises which 
deal with contemporary Jewish events in Alexandria/ all are 
written in the form either of a running commentary on cer- 
tain books of the Pentateuch * or of discourses on certain 
topics selected from the Pentateuch. The latter deal with 
the creation of the world to the expulsion of Adam and Eve 
from the garden of Eden,® Cain and the other generations of 
Adam,’ the generation of the deluge,® Noah,’ the tower of 
Babel,'® Abraham," the dreams of Jacob and Joseph," Jo- 
seph,'* Moses,'® the ten commandments,'* and all the other 
laws and teachings of the Pentateuch.'® Within these com- 
mentaries upon the Pentateuch, which he calls “Law,” 

* Exclusive of the De Mundoy De Sampsone^ De Jona^ Interpretatio Hehraicorum 
nominum and De Biblids antiquitatibusy which are generally acknowledged to be 
spurious, and exclusive also of the books which are entirely lost. Cf. E. Schurer, 
A History of the Jewish People at the Time of Jesus Christ, II, iii, pp. 321-361; L. 
Cohn, “Einteilung und Chronologic der Schriften Philos,’* Philologus, Supplbd, VII, 
iii (1899), pp. 387-435; L. Massebieau, and E. Br6hier, “Essai sur la chronologic 
de la vie et des oeuvres de Philon,” Reme de VUstotre des religions, LIII (1906), 
25-64, 164-185, 267-289. 

Probus; Aet,; Provid.; Alexander, she de eo quod rationem habeant bruta animalia. 

3 Cf. Prohus 7, 43; 8, 57; 12, 75-87; Aet. 5, 19. ? Sacr.; Deter.; Post. 

^ Flac.; Legat.; Cont. * Gig.; Immut. 

s in Gen* I, II, III, IV; in Ex. I, IL » jgr.; Plant.; Ehr,; Sobr, 

« Opif.; Leg. All. I, II, III; Cher. Conf. 

” Migr.; Heres; Congr.; Fug.; Ahr.; Mut. De Deo. 

Somn. I, IL Mos. I, II. 

13 Jos. Becal. 

Spec. I, II, III, VI; Virt.; Praem.; Uypoth.; Apologia pro Judaets, 



Philo includes also passages from some of the other books 
of the Scripture to which he refers as “Prophets and the 
Psalms and other Writings,” and these passages are dealt 
with by him in the same way as the passages from the Penta- 
teuch. All together, eighteen of the twenty-four books which 
constitute the Hebrew Bible are either named or quoted by 
him.'* Of those which he does not happen to name or quote, 
some may have been omitted because he had no occasion to 
use them. On the whole it may be assumed that his Scrip- 
ture consisted of all those books which shortly after are re- 
ferred to by Josephus as the “twenty-two” justly accred- 
ited books.'® He may have also drawn upon some of the 
books of the Apocrypha, though none of them is men- 
tioned by him.""" 

The text of Scripture used by him is not the original He- 
brew but the Greek translation, and sometimes it is the word- 
ing of that translation that is made the subject of his inter- 
pretation. Still it is not to be inferred from this that Philo 
had no knowledge of Hebrew. Writing in Greek for Greek 
readers, he would naturally quote the translation familiar to 
his readers, even though his knowledge of Hebrew was such 
that he could himself without too much effort provide his own 
translation. As for his taking the Greek wording of the text 
as the subject for his homiletical interpretation, it may be 
due to the fact that in common with all the Alexandrian as 
well as Palestinian Jews he shared the belief that the Greek 
translation of the Law was made with the aid of divine in- 
spiration." That he had a knowledge of Hebrew may be 

*7 Cont, 3 > ^ 5 ; cf. below, p. 117. 

** Cf. H. E. Ryle, Philo and the Holy Scripture^ xix-xxxiii; “Index Locorum Vc- 
teris Testamenti” in Leisegang, Indices ^ pp. 29-43. 

Apion. I, 8, 38. Cf. R. H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (Harper 
& Brothers, 1941), p. 64, 

« Cf. Ryle, op. cit.y pp. xxxiii-xxxv, « Cf. below, II, 54. 


derived from the following facts. First, sometimes his in- 
terpretation of a verse turns upon the wording of the original 
Hebrew which is not represented in the Septuagint.®" Sec- 
ond, his etymologies of proper Hebrew names, though con- 
taining some errors, show that he had a knowledge of 
Hebrew, for only one who had some knowledge of Hebrew 
could unconsciously make such errors, and only one who had 
a thorough knowledge of the language could deliberately 
allow himself to depart from the true meaning of words.*^ To 
be sure, neither of these facts is irrefutable as evidence of 
Philo’s knowledge of Hebrew. As for his displaying a knowl- 
edge of the Hebrew text in places where the Septuagint text 
differs from the Hebrew, it may be due to the fact that Philo 
had before him other Greek translations which kept closer 
to the Hebrew original.^'* As for his etymologies of proper 
Hebrew names, they could be explained as having been taken 
from the works of other Alexandrian Jews. Then there is 
always the possibility that whatever knowledge of Hebrew 
he displays in his writings he may have gotten from some- 
body who knew that language. Still, while there is no posi- 
tive evidence of his knowledge of Hebrew, the burden of 
proof is upon those who would deny that he possessed such 
a knowledge. It is true indeed that the Alexandrian Jews 
found it difficult to preserve the knowledge of Hebrew as the 
common possession of all the people, but there can be no 
doubt that provision for instruction in that language was 
made by them and that the more learned among them had 
a knowledge of it. The study of foreign languages in the 
ancient world was pursued whenever there was need for it. 
In Alexandria itself, when after the reign of Diocletian a 

See some examples below, pp. 190, an, ^56 fF., 267 ff., 336; II, 145. 

^3 Such deliberate departures from the true meaning of words are found in the 
etymologies of the rabbis. Cf. Ryle, op, ciL^ p. xxxix. 



knowledge of Latin became politically important, the study 
of that language became a part of the school curriculum.*® 
There is no reason, then, why Jews, for religious motives, 
should not also have studied Hebrew. In some of the 
etymologies of Philo, such as Aaron meaning “mountain- 
ous,” Bilhah meaning “swallowing,” and Samuel meaning 
“appointed by God,” we may even get some idea as to the 
manner of their study of Hebrew, for the confusion of cer- 
tain Hebrew letters displayed in these etymologies can be 
explained on the assumption that Hebrew was studied in 
Alexandria from texts in which the Hebrew words were trans- 
literated in Greek characters. With the device of vowel 
points in Hebrew not as yet invented, such transliterations 
were a pedagogical necessity. So also the study of Latin in 
Alexandria, it is known, was from texts in which Latin words 
were transliterated in Greek characters.*'^ The question 
therefore is really not whether Philo knew Hebrew, but 
rather to what extent he knew it. On the whole, it may be 
said that, while he did not know enough of the language to 
write his intepretations of Scripture in Hebrew, he knew 
enough of it to read Scripture in the original and to check up 
on the Greek translation whenever he found it necessary.®^ 

Besides the written Scripture, Philo also draws upon cer- 
tain unwritten traditions. These traditions are referred to 
by him in various terms.®* Parallels to many of these un- 

*5 Cf. Mitteis-Wilcken, Grundzilge und Chrestomathie der Papyruskunde^ I, p. 138 . 

Cf. the same reference. Similarly in Origen*s Hexapla by the side of the 
Hebrew text there was a transliteration of the same text in Greek characters. 

On the question of Philo’s knowledge of Hebrew, see Siegfried, 1875, pp. 142- 
145, with references to earlier authors in nn, i, 2, 3, on p. 142; L, Cohn, Philo $ TFerke 
1 , 1909, p. 29, n. 3 on Abr, 3, 17; and I. Heinemann's review of it in Monatsschrift 
fur Geschlchte md Wusmschafts des Judentums 54 (1910), pp. ^o 6 -^oy and idem, 
Bildung, 1932, p. 7, n. i; E. Stein, Die allegorische Exegese des Philo aus Alexandria, 
1929, pp, 20-26, and R. Marcus’ review of it in Jewish Studies in Memory of George 
A. Kohut, 1935, pp. 469-470; J. Klausner, PHosofim we-Hoge De‘ot, 1 , 1934, pp. 66- 
68. ** Cf. below, pp. 188 ff. 


written traditions reflected in the writings of Philo are to be 
found in the collections of Palestinian traditions known as 
the Mishnah, the Midrash, and the TalmudA® Though these 
collections were not made and written down until long after 
the time of Philo, much of the material contained in them, 
and sometimes even the literary formulation of this material, 
must already have existed in oral form by the time of Philo. 
On the whole the relation between the parallel traditions in 
Philo and the rabbis may be assumed to be of a fourfold 
nature. First, some of them undoubtedly emanate from a 
common source, the traditions of early Palestinian Judaism 
which the Alexandrian Jews had brought with them from 
their home country. Second, some of them are later inno- 
vations independently arrived at by the rabbis and Philo, 
owing to the common method of interpretation employed by 
them. Third, some of them may have been borrowed by 
Alexandrian Jews from their contemporary Palestinian Jews 
through the various channels of intellectual communica- 
tion that existed between them. Fourth, some of them were 
probably borrowed by Palestinian Jews from the works of 
Philo.’" Nowhere in the Talmudic literature, however, is 
there any evidence that the knowledge of Philo reflected in it, 
and for that matter the knowledge of any other Greek phi- 
losopher, is directly derived from literature; more likely they 
all came by hearsay.’' In the entire Greek vocabulary that 

The search for such rabbinic parallels began with Azariah dei Rossi in his 
Me* or "Enayim: Imre Binah, ch. 4, 1573-1575. 

3 ° Cf. J. Freudenthal, Hellenistische Studien, Heft i und 2, 1875, pp. 67-6 8 ;,Z. 
Frankel, Usber den Einfluss der paldstinensischen Exegese auf die alexandrinische 
Hermeneutik, N. Bentwich, Philo-Judaeus of Alexandria^ PP* 

3 ^ On rabbinic passages which are supposed to be dependent upon Philo, see 
Freudenthal, op. cit.y pp. 68-77; J* iSeries, “Notes et Melanges,” Revue des Eludes 
Juives, 3 (1881), 1 14; A. Epstein, “Le Livre des Jubil6s,” Fhilon et le Midrasch 
Tadsche^ REJ, 21 (1890), 80-97 (cf. below, p. 306, n. 60); 22 (i89i),i-25;W.Bacher, 
Die Agada der Amorder^ 1 , 1 892, p. 107, n. 2; N. J. Weinstein, Zur Genesis der Agada^ 
II: Die Alexandrinische Agada, 1900; cf. Review by W. Bacher in REJ, 43 {1901), 



is embodied in the Midrash, Mishnah, and Talmud there 
is not a single technical philosophic term.^^ Moreover, of 
those Greek terms embodied in them, which in Greek lit- 
erature have a philosophic meaning in addition to their 
popular meaning, none is used in its philosophic meaning.33 
Nor are there to be found in them Hebrew or Aramaic terms 
which may be taken with certainty as direct translations of 
Greek philosophic termsd'' All these four possibilities are 
to be borne in mind whenever one is tempted to decide on 
the basis of some resemblance any literary dependence be- 
tween Philo and the rabbis. In our present study, the rab- 

139--145; D. Neumark, Geschichte derjudiscken P kilos ophie des Mittelalters^ I, 1907, 
pp. 85, 98 (Hebrew: ^oledot ha-Pilosofiah be~Yisralel, I, 1921, pp. 69, 85); L. Treitel, 
“ Agada bei Philo/’ Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums^ 
53 i'^9^9)} ^^” 45 ) I 59 ‘~^ 73 > 286-291 (reprinted in Philonische Studien^ PP* 85- 
II 3); A. Marmorstein, ‘*Ra‘ayonot ha-Agadah we~Korot ha-Zeman/’ Tarbiz, 5 
(1934), 134-147; L. Finkelstein, *‘Is Philo Mentioned in Rabbinic Literature?” 
Journal of Biblical Literature^ 53 (1934), 142-149; M. Stein, “Ha-Midrash ha-Hell- 
enisti,” Seneh^ i (igig), 141-154; idem, Pilon ha-Alexandroni, 1937, pp. 299-300; 
N. Bentwich, Hellenism (Jewish Publication Society, 1943), pp. 250-296. 

3 * Cf. classification of such terms in S. Krauss, Griechische und Lateinische 
Leknworter im 'Talmud, Midrash und Targum, II, pp. 623-658. Nor does S. Lieber- 
man’s Greek in Jewish Palestine, 1942, show any influence of Greek philosophic 
terminology upon the vocabulary of the Midrash, Mishnah, and Talmud. 

33 For instance, the terms kvhyKri bpxh bvvaixLs D'DJn, decopta n«nin, 
IdujtiTijs £ 3 VTn, 'irapabdypara MDDims, (ro<f>Larrj^ DDD’fiJlD, are none of them used 
in their philosophic sense. Neumark in his Toledot ha-Pilosofiah be-Yisrd el, I, 
p, 75 seems to take buy/xa, in the expression 17V naann nD2n 

(Hagigah 1 6a) in its technical sense of the paradigmatic nature of the ideas. But 
bdtypa is never used in Greek in that sense; only 'iraphbiLyp.a has been used in the 
sense of ideas (cf. below, p. 238). This shows that the term here has its origin 
not in literature but in speech. The Talmudic expression n" 3 pn ]mi 3 DlD 
{Genesis Rabbah 50, 9; 68, 12) corresponds exactly to Philo’s expression Q^ov pvcrrhpKx 
{Leg, All, 111 , I, 3). But mysteries were practiced among the heathen in Pales- 
tine and it is therefore from common speech that the expression was picked up by 
the rabbis. With regard to the term riKmn, there is no evidence in support of Neu- 
mark’s contention {op, cit,, I, 99) that it is used in a technical philosophic sense; it 
is rather used in its ordinary Greek sense of dccopla, a looking at, 

3 ^ D. Neumark {op, cit., I, p. 64) seems to suggest that the Hebrew in 
T'X {Genesis Rabbah i, 9) is the Greek b 7 }iJLu>vpy 6 s, But the allusion 

to the demiourgos there is attributed to a non-Jewish philosopher. 


binic parallels quoted may indifferendy belong to any of these 
four types of parallels, for they are not essential to our inter- 
pretation of Philo as a critic of Greek philosophy they are used 
only as corroborative evidence. Our interpretation of Philo is 
based chiefly upon a study of his own writings in relation to his 
Greek and scriptural sources.^® 

Interwoven with his treatment of these strictly scriptural 
topics are discussions of many of the outstanding philosophic 
problems of the day: the existence of ideas, the origin of the 
world, its structure and the laws which govern it, the nature 
of the soul and the realm of living beings, problems of human 
knowledge, man’s knowledge of God’s existence and God’s 
nature, and the problem of human conduct both individual 
and social. The philosophers Philo draws upon, whom he 
either mentions by name or to whom passages in his works 
can be traced, come from all the periods of Greek philosophy 
down to his own time. Of pre-Socratic philosophers, he men- 
tions the Pythagoreans, Parmenides, Zeno, Heraclitus, Em- 
pedocles, Democritus, Anaxagoras, Philolaus, the Sophists, 
and the individual Sophist Protagoras. Then he mentions 
also Socrates; the Cynic school, naming especially “Aristip- 
pus and Diogenes” as following the teachings of that school; 
Plato; Aristotle. Of post-Aristotelian philosophy he mentions 
the various schools or their leaders: the Stoics in general 
and individual Stoics, such as Zeno, Cleanthes, Chrysip- 
pus, Diogenes the Babylonian, Boethus the Sidonian, and 
Panaetius; Epicurus; the Peripatetic philosophy in general 
and individual Peripatetics, such as Theophrastus and 
Critolaus; the Sceptics in general; the Academicians in 
general; and finally the Neopythagorean Ocellus. With- 
out mentioning names, he quotes, or draws upon, Anaxi- 
mander, Anaximenes, the Pythagorean Epicharmus, the 

“Cf. below, pp. 103-113. “Cf. below, 11 , 465-491. 



Atomist Anaxarchus, the Sophist Prodicus, the Stoics Aristo 
of Chios and Posidonius of Apamea, the Peripatetic Aristox- 
enes, and the Sceptic Aenesidemus.^’ Besides these philoso- 
phers, Philo also mentions Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Solon, 
Hippocrates, Ion, Euripides, Sophocles, and Aeschylus.^* 
Some of these may have been quoted by him from secondary 
sources, but some of them quite evidently are quoted di- 
rectly from their own works, and even in the case of authors 
whose works are no longer extant it is quite possible that he 
quoted them from their original works which were still 
extant at his time. 

Philo was not the first to interpret Scripture in terms of 
Greek philosophy. The beginning was made in the Greek 
translation of the Pentateuch. That translation, to be sure, 
was meant to be a faithful rendering of the Hebrew text into 
Greek and not a philosophic interpretation of it. But every 
translation of a religious or philosophic work from one 
language into another, no matter how faithfully literal it is 
meant to be, is unconsciously bound to be also an interpre- 
tation of one system of thought into another. Some scholars, 
moreover, think to have discerned in that Greek translation 
of the Pentateuch a conscious effort on the part of the trans- 
lators to identify scriptural teachings with corresponding 
teachings in Greek philosophy.^’ This conscious eflFort to 
interpret scriptural teachings in terms of the teachings of 
Greek philosophers becomes unmistakably clear in the sub- 

37 Cf. Leisegang, “Index Nominum” in his Indices^ pp. 1-26, for proper names in 
the works which are extant in Greek. “Academicians'" occur in in Gen, III, 33; 
“Parmenides” and “Empedocles” in Provid, (Aucher) II, 48. For Aenesidemus see 
Arnim, “Quellenstudien zu Philo,” Philologische Untersuchungen ii (1888), 55 fF., 
and cf. Zeller, III, 24, p. 390, n. 4, and p. 9, n. 7. The identification of sources in the 
case of passages where the name of the author is not mentioned by Philo is, of 
course, conjectural and incomplete. 38 Ibid.; cf. Siegfried, pp. I37--I4I. 

39 Cf. survey in Freudenthal, ^‘Are There Traces of Greek Philosophy in the 
Septuagint?” Jewish ^arterly Review y 2 (1890), 205-210; Drummond, 1 , 156-166. 



sequent writings of Jewish authors in Greek — ■ such as the 
letter of Aristeas/® which in its external literary form is a 
historical exposition, and the Wisdom of Solomon,''^ which is 
written in the form of the scriptural Book of Proverbs. More 
like the writings of Philo in their external literary form are 
the works entitled An Explanation of the Mosaic haw at- 
tributed to Aristobulus and the Fourth Book of Macca- 
bees.'*® The dates of the composition of these books are not 
certain; every one of them is placed by some scholar after 
Philo; but we may quite safely consider them all as antedat- 
ing Philo. Philo himself refers to certain oral philosophical 
interpretations of Scripture which existed at his time and 
also to certain written philosophical interpretations of Scrip- 
ture in the possession of the Therapeutae."'* It is Philo, how- 
ever, who brought to full development this peculiar method 
of interpreting Scripture and also this peculiar form of phil- 
osophic literature and it is to him that their vogue in the 
subsequent history of philosophy is to be traced. 

The external form given by Philo to his writings is a purely 
Jewish form of literary exposition. It had sprung up in 
Palestine when, together with the establishment of the cus- 
tom of public reading of portions from the Pentateuch in the 
synagogue on the Sabbath, there grew up the custom of de- 
livering an oral interpretation of certain selected verses out 
of the text read. From Palestine the custom of the public 

Cf. Schiirer, A History of the Jewish People in the ’Times of Jesus Christy 11 , iii, 
pp. 306-312; E. Bickermann, “Zur Datierung des Pseudo- Aristeas/* Zeitschrift fur 
die neutestamentUche Wis sens shaft und die Kunde der dltern Kirche^ 29 (1930), 280- 
298. Ihid.^ II, iii, pp. 230-237. 

42 pp. 237-243; Drummond, I, pp. 242-252. 

43 Ihid,^ pp. 244-248. Cf. also Introductions to these books in R. H. Charles, 
The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament^ 

44 Deter. 8, 22; Plant. 17, 69; Heres 57, 281; Mut. 25, 141; Abr. 20, 99; 38, 217; 

Jos. 26, 1 51; Somn. 1 , 19, 118; Spec. 1 , 2, 8; Spec. Ill, 32, 178; in Gen. 1 , 10. 

4 s 3, 29. Cf. Siegfried, p. 26. 



reading of the Law on the Sabbath together with oral in- 
struction in the form of a sermon or homily was brought 
over to Alexandria by the early Jewish settlers there. Philo 
himself has several references to this kind of instruction in 
the synagogues on the Sabbath.'*® Perhaps Philo himself was 
one of those who gave such instruction in the synagogues. 
But, whether the result of such actual instruction or only 
modeled after the formal manner of such instruction, his 
writings have the form of sermons or homilies on verses or 
topics selected from Scripture.'*’ Now it happens that only 
the Pentateuch was read serially in public at the synagogue 
on the Sabbath and it was usually completed in Palestine, 
and hence probably also in Alexandria, in cycles of three 
years. Of the other books of Scripture, only selections from 
the Prophets were read as an appendage to the reading from 
the Pentateuch. As a result of this, the formal homilies in 
the synagogue always turned on a text or a topic taken from 
the Pentateuch. This is the reason why the homilies of Philo 
take the form of discussions directly based on the books of 
the Pentateuch only. For a similar reason, in Palestinian 
Judaism, too, the early collections of literature, when ar- 
ranged in the form of homilies in Scripture, were externally 
based upon the books of the Pentateuch or upon topics de- 
rived from the books of the Pentateuch. 

This external literary form of his writings determined the 
order of Philo’s treatment of philosophic problems. He was 
guided by the scriptural verses which he happened to make 

Opif. 43, 128; Mos. II, 39, 216; spec. II, 15, 61-62; Hypoth. 7, 13 (Eusebius, 
Praeparatio Evangelica VIII, 7, 359d“36oa); cf, L. Cohn, Philos Werkoy 1 , 7. 

^7 The similarity between the diatribe and the homily (cf. P. Wendland and O, 
Kern, Beitrdge %ur Geschichte der griechischen Philosophic und ReUgiorty p. 5) and 
the evidence of the use of topics dealt with in the diatribe form of literature in 
some of Philo’s treatises (cf. the same reference, pp. 8 ff.) does not eliminate the 
native Jewish Midrashic character of Philo’s writings. Cf. M. Stein, Ptlon ha-Alex- 
droniy pp. 77-78 ; Schurer, op, cit,y pp. 243, 331 ; Freudenthal, op, cit,, pp. 67-68 


the pegs upon which to hang his philosophic speculations. 
One verse may have suggested to him a topic in the theory of 
ideas, another a topic in the nature of virtue, a third a topic 
in the nature of the soul, and so on throughout the manifold 
items in the various minutiae of problems of philosophy. 
Philosophical problems are thus invariably presented by 
him in fragmentary form. Never does a problem appear in 
its full coherent structure; never is it treated as a whole. 

And as the order of his presentation of problems was dic- 
tated by the order of scriptural texts, so is also the manner 
of their presentation. The language of Scripture determines 
his choice of vocabulary in philosophy. Because Scripture 
uses the terms heaven and breath by the side of the terms 
earth and water, he will call the elements fire and air by the 
terms heaven and breath."** Because Scripture says that God 
breathed into man a breath of life, he will call the human 
mind breath or spirit."*** Because Scripture speaks of the word 
of God and the wisdom of God he will call the divine mind 
Logos and Sophia.®* Because Scripture speaks of the Lord 
of glory and the Lord of the powers he will call ideas glory 
and powers.®** Wishing to keep close to the scriptural modes 
of speech, he will clothe his philosophic thought in scriptural 
imagery. There is a variety and mixture of vocabulary in the 
presentation of his philosophy, and there is no attempt to 
adhere to the technical vocabulary of the schools or to one 
consistent technical set of terms of one school. 

The fact that so many philosophers belonging to opposite 
schools of thought are drawn upon by him without any evi- 
dent discrimination, the fact also that philosophic problems 
are not treated by him systematically but are dragged in, 
as it were, upon the casual suggestion of scriptural texts, and 

Cf. below, pp. 313, 394, n. 45. 5 ° Cf. below, pp. 254-155. 

*0 Cf. below, p. 394. ^ Cf. below, pp. 218 ff. 



moreover the fact that he never seems to have any difficulty 
in connecting any philosophic thought with any scriptural 
verse create the impression that Philo was a preacher with 
a flair for philosophy rather than primarily a philosopher. 
That he was a good preacher — in fact, the founder 
of the art of preaching as we know it — and perhaps the 
greatest philosophic preacher that has ever lived, can be 
readily admitted. But was his flair for philosophy of sig- 
nificance enough to entitle him to a place among the found- 
ers of new schools in the history of philosophic thought? The 
general answer to this question is in the negative. An early 
student of his philosophy expressed the view that Philo 
“neither founded any sect whatever, nor in my opinion pos- 
sessed such powers of intellect as to be able to reject the 
theories of other philosophers, and to strike out a new and 
hitherto untrodden path for himself,” and the same view is 
expressed by modern scholars in such statements as that 
“he was not an original philosopher at all, and anything 
philosophic to be found in his writings can confidently be 
taken as genuine teaching of his environment,” ” or that “ as 
a philosopher Philo is negligible” and the fact that he “is 
not an original thinker but a compiler is clear not only from 
his total lack of original thought but from the slovenliness 
with which he incorporates his material,” or that one of 
Philo’s characteristics is his “normal lack of originality.” ** 
To one student of his philosophy, Philo seems “ a polyhistor 
of the first rank” but at the same time also a man “who, on 
account of his enormous knowledge, is incapable of gaining 

J. L. Mosheim in his notes to R. Cudworth, *!the Intellectual System of the Uni- 
verse, Book I, Chapter IV, §XXXVI, ed, 1845, 3 ^^* 

S 3 E, Goodenough, An Introduction to Fhilo Judaeus (Yale University Press, 
1940), p. 124. 

W. L. Kjnox, Some Hellenistic Elements in Primitive Christianity (London; 
Humphrey Milford, 1944), p. 34. 

ss A. D. Nock, Review of the preceding in the Guardian, January 26, 1945, p. 36. 



clearness and of building up, either in religion or in philoso- 
phy, a scientific system which is consistent and free from con- 
tradictions.” 5*’ The characterization most often applied to 
him by students of his writings, ever since the seventeenth 
century, is that of eclectic,®’' in the damnatory sense of the 
term. As to what the dominant element in that eclecticism of 
Philo is, there exists a difference of opinion. Among the 
Church Fathers, Clement of Alexandria characterized him as 
a Pythagorean, Eusebius characterized him as both a Piaton- 
ist®* and a Pythagorean,®’ and Jerome characterized him as 
a Platonist.*’ Besides Platonism and Pythagoreanism, later 
students began to stress also the influence of Stoicism upon 
Philo. All this is summed up by Zeller in his statement that 
the philosophers who had the greatest attraction for Philo are 
Plato, the neo-Pythagoreans, and the Stoics.*" A new in- 
fluence discovered by more recent students of Philo is that 
of the Greek mysteries.*’ The prevalent view of Philo as 
a philosopher is well expressed in the following statement: 
“Philosophers have patronized him as a lowly step in their 
lofty ladder, and have labelled him according to their fancy 
or their knowledge of more ancient philosophers.”*® The 

P. Ziegert, "‘Uber die Ansatze zu einer Mysterienlehre aufgebaut auf den 
antiken Mysterien bei Philo Judaus,” Theologische Studien und Kritiken, 67 (1824), 
p. 724. 

57 p. AUix, Judgment of the Ancient Jewish Church Against the Unitarians^ 
1699, p. 357; E. Schurer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, 
II, hi, p. 364; E. Meyer, Ursprung und Anfdnge des Christentums^ 1921, II, p. 366. 

5 * Stromata 1 , 15 (PG, 8, 781 a ); II, 19 (PC?, 8, 1044 b)* 

57 Historia Ecclestastica II, 4, 3. 

^ Be Viris lllustrihus, c. ii. C£. Dahnc, I, p. 31, n. 6; Zeller, III, 2^, p. 390, 
nn. 3 and 4; Schiirer, op. cit.^ II, iii, p. 364, n, iio. Zeller, III, 2^, p. 390. 

The earliest writer to call attention to this influence upon Philo is P* Ziegert, 
1894 (cf. above p. 44, n. 148). For later literature, see H. L. Goodhart and E. R. 
Goodenough, The Politics of Philo Judaeus with a General Bibliography of Philo 
(Yale University Press, 1938), pp. 

^3 Cf. J. H. A. Hart, “Philo and Catholic Judaism in the First Century,” The 
Journal of Theological Studies, ii (1909), p. 27. 



only dissenting voice, as far as I know, is that of Azariah dei 
Rossi, in the sixteenth century, who describes Philo as fol- 
lows: “He was a great philosopher — learned in the works 
of Plato and Aristotle as well as in those of every other wise 
man — whose renown went forth from before him among 
the gentiles. He moreover adds new things of his own, so 
that, while sometimes he appears to be following in their 
footsteps, sometimes he turns aside from following them, for 
his way is contrary unto them.” 

j Influence is a vague term, and in the case of Philo the 
methods by which influence upon him is determined are 
also vague. Sometimes this influence is determined on the 
basis of the honorific titles which he happens to apply to 
certain philosophers. Thus, for instance, Philo happens to 
describe the society of Pythagorean philosophers as “most 
sacred” (Upd^Taroy)^^ and Plato either also as “most sacred” 
(lepiiTaTov) or as “most clear-toned” (KLyvpdjTarov)^^ and 
Parmenides, Empedocles, Zeno and Clean thes as “divine 
men” {divi homines),^’' and consequently it is inferred that 
he must have been influenced by them. Now, while from 
these passages it may be safely inferred that Philo was ac- 
quainted with the names of all these philosophers and per- 
haps also that he had read their works, and furthermore that 
he was willing to repeat certain conventional, laudatory 

Me^or ^Enayim: Imre Binah^ ch. 4, ed. Wilna, 1866, p. 97. 

In the passage quoted in the text, I take the clause “whose renown went forth 
from before him among the gentiles” to refer to Philo, and not to “ any of the other 
wise men/’ It thus reflects the description of Philo in Eusebius, Historia Ecclesias- 
tic a II, 4, a, which in the Latin translation accessible to dei Rossi reads as follows: 
“a man held in highest esteem by many not only of our own but also of the gentiles — 
vir a plurimis non modo nostrorum, verum etiam gentilium maximo in pretio habi- 

‘’s Probus 1, 2. 

Ibid, a, 13, where these two terms are alternative readings, 

67 Provid. (Aucher) IL 48. 



titles that were attached to their names and perhaps also 
that he himself went so far as to coin these laudatory titles 
by which he describes them, it does not necessarily mean 
that he followed their teachings. In fact it may only show 
that he was magnanimous enough to speak of them in lauda- 
tory terms even though he disagreed with their philosophy; 
this is true in the case of most of them, as we shall see later. 
Sometimes the influence upon him is determined on the basis 
of the literary origin of terms and expressions which he 
happens to use. Now if Philo does happen to use terms and 
expressions borrowed, for instance, from some Stoic author 
or from some Neopythagorean author, or from the vocabu- 
lary of the Greek mysteries, it does not necessarily mean 
that his philosophy was Stoic or Neopythagorean or that it 
was really not a philosophy at all but only a mystery; the 
borrowed expressions only throw light upon the kind of 
books that students of philosophy at the time of Philo in 
Alexandria used to read, and show that Philo’s language rep- 
resented the literary philosophic language of his time with 
ail its richness and all the variety of elements that entered 
into its making. Philosophic language by the very history of 
its formation is bound to be heterogeneous, and it is for this 
reason that one cannot determine the affiliation of a philoso- 
pher by the parentage of the terms he uses. Every word, 
indeed, has an etymology, and every term has a history. But 
the use of a term by a philosopher goes beyond its etymology 
and history, though a knowledge of both of these is essential 

The term devine (divus, d^tos) which Philo applies to various philosophers is 
a common Homeric epithet applied to such persons as Ulysses (Odyssey IV, 17) and 
Epeus (//?W XXIII, 689). The expression “divine Plato*’ occurs in Themistius 
(De Jnma, ed. Heinze, p. 4, L 15) and “divine Aristotle” in Simplicius (Physka, 
ed. Diels, p. 61 1, 1 . 8). Plato himself says that it is in imitation of Homer that he 
applies the epithets “venerable” (olSotos) and “awful” to Parmenides 

(Theaeietus 183 e). 



for the understanding of its use. By the time of Philo, the 
vocabulary of men dealing with philosophic or religious 
topics was a mosaic of terms derived from all kinds of op- 
posite schools of thought, but molded by their users, if they 
used them understandingly, to a common, consistent mean- 
ing. Whatever one thought of “matter,” he would not hesi- 
tate to describe it by the Platonic “receptacle” {vTrodoxrj), the 
Aristotelian “hyle” (i5X??), or the Stoic “substance” (oicria), 
despite differences in the conception of matter implied in 
these terms. Whatever one thought of “soul,” he would not 
hesitate, whenever the exigencies of style demanded, to call 
it indiscriminately psyche or nous or pneuma, despite the 
different meanings these terms have in certain systems of 
philosophy. Whatever one thought of “God,” he would not 
hesitate to call him indiscriminately Demiurge, Prime Mover, 
or Soul of the Universe, despite the difference in the concep- 
tion of God which these terms imply. The style of Philo, 
like that of any writer, is the product of all that has been 
written before him. It has absorbed within itself terms and 
expressions and allusions derived from the philosophers of 
the various schools, as also from popular Greek religion and 
mythology and mysteries. But in the case of Philo, as in the 
case of any other author, while the outer speech of style may 
be the man, it is the inner speech of thought, and the latent 
processes of reasoning behind it, that is the philosopher. 

The question is thus again before us, Is there a philosopher 
in Philo behind the preacher ? Is there behind all his frag- 
menta^ry and often inconsistent statements a unifying prin- 
ciple of thought, a coherent system, in the light of which his 
expressed utterances, drawn from such a variety of contra- 
dictory sources, can be completed, unified, and interpreted 
in their true meaning, as used by him, as understood by him, 
and as he wanted us to understand them ? It is not impossi- 


ble, indeed, that they are right who say that Philo did not 
possess “such powers of intellect as to be able to reject the 
theories of other philosophers, and to strike out a new and 
hitherto untrodden path for himself” or that he was not 
capable “of building up, either in religion or in philosophy, 
a scientific system which is consistent and free of contradic- 
tions,” or that he was only an “eclectic”; but at least we 
must make an effort to find out whether he was really noth- 
ing more than all that has been said about him. 

To study any philosopher in the midstream of a tradition 
we must approach him from upstream and we must also fol- 
low him downstream. The former approach supplies us with 
the material with which he has started; the latter may show 
us the direction in which he has steered the material. As for 
Philo, he is not only in the midst of a general philosophic 
tradition, which was started with Plato, but he is also the 
founder of a new trend within that tradition — a trend 
which continued without any interruption for about seven- 
teen centuries, terminating ultimately with Spinoza. In the 
study of the use made by Philo of the material he inherited 
from Greek philosophy we may therefore learn something of 
essential importance from the manner in which the same 
material has been treated subsequently by those who have 
followed in his footsteps. 

Now, for those who have followed in his footsteps — not 
so much his immediate and direct successors, the Church 
Fathers, as those who followed him later indirectly, namely, 
the Moslem and Jewish and Christian mediaeval philoso- 
phers — the interpretation of Scripture in terms of philosophy 
was not simply a matter of mechanically substituting one set 
of terms for another or of arbitrarily identifying one set of 
doctrines with another. To all of them it was a complicated 
study of similarities and difiFerences. They all started with 



certain general conceptions as to what constituted true re- 
ligious doctrines, conceptions which ultimately go back to 
the Hebrew Scripture and Jewish tradition. Corresponding 
to these they all had another set of conceptions derived from 
Greek philosophy. Between these two sets of conceptions 
they all tried to show there could be no real contradiction. 
But no sooner had they started to show the absence of any 
real contradiction between them than they found them- 
selves confronted by all sorts of vexatious problems. No sys- 
tem of philosophy proved itself acceptable to them in its 
entirety. Every system of philosophy, they discovered, con- 
tained views which were true and views which were false; 
and even the views which were true occasionally were con- 
taminated by elements of falsehood, from which they had 
to purge them before they could take them into the religious 
philosophy which they were trying to build up. The effort to 
reconcile Scripture with philosophy was thus with them not 
a mere search for the underlying philosophic implications of 
scriptural texts; it was also, and often primarily, a searching 
examination into philosophic problems themselves, and it is 
this latter searching examination into philosophic problems 
that they most dwell upon in their writings. 

It is the same scriptural conceptions as those of later 
Christian and Moslem and Jewish philosophers that Philo 
takes to constitute what he considers the inflexible doctrines 
of true religion, and it is the same literary sources as those 
used by his followers from which he derives his philosophic 
conceptions. Like all of his followers, he also started with 
the belief that there could be no real contradiction between 
Scripture and philosophy. Like all of them, therefore, he 
must have been aware — we have reason to assume — of the 
fact that certain contradictions do seem to exist between 
Scripture and philosophy, and that these contradictions 


would have to be removed. We have also reason to assume 
that he was not less perceptive than they in seeing that cer- 
tain philosophic views were absolutely irreconcilable with 
the teachings of Scripture. Similarly we have reason to as- 
sume that he was not less ingenious than they in knowing 
how some refractory philosophic views, with certain revi- 
sions, could be reconciled with scriptural teachings. So also 
we have reason to assume that he was not less painstaking 
than they in examining thoroughly every philosophic view 
before deciding whether to accept it or not. If all this is not 
apparent in his writings, it is perhaps because he is one of 
those philosophers who does his thinking in private and pre- 
sents to the public only the maturity of his thought. If, with 
the exception of an occasional groan at some pet aversion, he 
does not dwell much upon the erroneous views of philoso- 
phers to which he objected, it is perhaps because his purpose 
was not to teach true philosophy to students of Scripture but 
to show the truth of Scripture to students of philosophy. If 
almost without any exception he adopts philosophic views 
without telling us that he adopts them only according to a 
new version of his own, it is perhaps because at his time philo- 
sophic views and concepts had not yet become rigidly fixed 
by the constant hammering of commentators and one could 
still freely reshape them for some particular use without hav- 
ing to offer an apology or explanation. Perhaps, also, at his 
time he could envisage a class of readers who were so well ac- 
quainted with the original meaning of the views and concepts 
with which he dealt that he felt no need of constantly re- 
minding them of the revisions he had introduced. Do we not 
all sometimes quite deliberately pervert a familiar quotation, 
without stopping to insult the intelligence of the reader by 
pointing out the liberty we have taken with it ? 

If this is how we are to approach the study of Philo, then 



to get at the true meaning of his philosophy it is not sufficient 
to collect related passages in his writings, to arrange them 
under certain headings, and to place in their juxtaposition 
parallel passages from other philosophers and the Bible. 
We must try to reconstruct the latent processes of his reason- 
ing, of which his uttered words, we may assume, are only the 
conclusions. We must do for him what he would have done 
for himself had he lived at a later time and followed the lit- 
erary method of that time. We must constantly ask our- 
selves: What were the scriptural presuppositions with which 
he started? What were the corresponding philosophic con- 
ceptions with which he matched those scriptural presuppo- 
sitions? Could he haVe followed those philosophic concep- 
tions ? If he could not, but still seems to follow them, how 
would he have to modify them in order to justify the fact of 
his following them? And it is in the light of these recon- 
structed processes of his latent reasoning that we must then 
study his own uttered words. This method of study we have 
chosen to call the hypothetico-deductive method of text 
study.®® We have already had occasion to describe it else- 
where in its application to a study of two other authors,^® and 
we shall describe it in greater detail in our general introduc- 
tion to the entire series of studies of which this present study 
of Philo constitutes the second book. Briefly stated, the basis 
of this method is the assumption that every philosopher in 
the main course of the history of philosophy either reproduces 
former philosophers or interprets them or criticizes them. 
Now if every philosopher in the past did actually tell us the 
processes of his own reasoning from the very inception of his 
thought to its complete maturation, then the history of 

69 Cf. Crescas^ Critique of Aristotle (Harvard University Press, 1929), p. 25. 

7 ° Cf. the same reference, pp. 24-29; ^he Philosophy of Spinoza (Harvard Uni- 
versity Press, 1934), I, 20-31. 


philosophy would be simply a matter of collecting and clas- 
sifying philosophic data. But no philosopher has ever given 
expression to the full content of his mind. Some of them tell 
us only part of it; some of them veil their thought under- 
neath some artificial literary form; some of them philosophize 
as birds sing, without being aware that they are repeating 
ancient tunes. Words, in general, by the very limitation 
of their nature, conceal one’s thought as much as they reveal 
it; and the uttered words of philosophers, at their best and 
fullest, are nothing but floating buoys which signal the pres- 
ence of submerged unuttered thoughts. The purpose of 
historical research in philosophy, therefore, is to uncover these 
unuttered thoughts, to reconstruct the latent processes of 
reasoning that always lie behind uttered words, and to try 
to determine the true meaning of what is said by tracing 
back the story of how it came to be said, and why it is said 
in the manner in which it is said. 

As a result of such a study, Philo emerges primarily a 
critic of all schools of Greek philosophy, whether those 
which by his time had already become obsolete or those 
which were still flourishing. Believing as he did in the ex- 
istence of incorporeal beings, he could never be a follower of 
any of the pre-Platonic schools of philosophy, however much 
he may praise their founders and however much he may 
quote with approval some of their sentiments. He may in- 
deed describe the Pythagorean society as “most sacred”^* 
and quote with approval their statement that equality is the 
mother of justice and make use of their theory of numbers 
in his allegorical interpretation of Scripture,’^ but the meta- 
physics that is behind the conception of equality and of num- 

7 ^ Probus I, a; cf. above, p. loo. 

7 » Spec, IV, 42, 231; cf. below, II, 391. 

73 OpiJ. 30, 89-43, 128; cf. Br^hier, p. 43, n. i. 



bers among the old Pythagoreans and the combination of 
the theory of numbers with the Platonic theory of ideas 
among the Neopythagoreans are not followed by Philo. 
Parmenides may indeed be included by him among the 
“divine men,” ’'•* but his theory that the world is eternal and 
that plurality and variability within the world are mere ap- 
pearances is not followed by Philo. Empedocles also may 
indeed be included by him among the “divine men,” and 
yet Heraclitus is condemned by him for teaching that the 
whole world is ruled by the law of opposites without the as- 
sumption of a divine agency beyond the world,^^ even though 
that is also the view of Empedocles. The Sophists are ex- 
plicitly rejected by him and are represented unfavorably in 
their traditional character as those “who sell their tenets and 
arguments like any bit of merchandise in the market, men 
who for ever pit philosophy against philosophy wnthout a 
blush,” ” pretending an “ ever-curious scepticism” and re- 
joicing in “disputatious arguments”; and, as we shall see 
later, he also criticizes the Sophist principle enunciated by 
Protagoras in his statement that “man is measure of all 
things,” giving to that principle an interpretation of his 

He similarly dissociates himself from some of the post- 
Aristotelian schools of philosophy. He openly disagrees with 
the Epicureans on the most essential points in their doctrine. 
In physics, he rejects their atomism; in ethics he rejects their 
hedonism; in theology he denounces the belief in the exist- 
ence of gods in the form of human beings, as taught by 
Epicurus in his popular writings,®" and he denounces also the 
denial of providence and the doctrine that the world is gov- 

Cf. above, p. loo. Fug, 38, 209. 

w Ibid. 79 Cf. below, pp. 168 ff, 

7 ® Leg, AIL III, 3, 7; Spec, I, 38, 208. Cf, below, p. 176. 

77 Mos, II, 39, 212. 


erned by chance,*^ as taught by Epicurus in his philosophic 
writings. Similarly the Sceptics are denounced by him in 
such a statement as that in which he says that they “do not 
concern themselves with the best things in nature, whether 
perceived by the senses or the mind, but spend themselves 
on petty quibbles and trifling disputes.” So also the Mid- 
dle as well as the New Academy is denounced by him in a 
statement in which he says of the “Academicians and in- 
quirers” that, “preferring neither this one nor that one 
among the opinions which they investigate, they admit those 
men to be philosophers who attack the opinions of every 
sect.” Indeed he sometimes repeats the words of the 
Sceptics about our inability to know certain things, such as 
the origin and the future of the world, the constitution of the 
translunar part of the world, and the nature and powers of 
our own soul.®'' But the repetition of these words is not an 
endorsement of Scepticism; it is only an expression of his 
own view against both the Sceptics and the non-Sceptics 
among the philosophers, trying to show that, while we can 
have a true knowledge of things, that knowledge can only 
partly be based upon reason; in part it must be based upon 

His attitude toward Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics is not 
so clear. 

With regard to Aristotle, no philosopher at the time of 
Philo could be expected to be completely free from his in- 
fluence. Aristotelian terms, expressions, and formulae occur 
throughout his writings. Sometimes the Aristotelian influ- 
ence is apparent even in a context which on the whole is not 


** Congr. 10, 5a. 

*3 in Gen, III, 33. 

Cf. (i) Hsres 50, 246; (2) Somn. 1 , 4, 21-14; (3) CAer. 20, 6;; 32, 1 13; Somn. I, 
6, 30-32; Leg. All. 1 , 29, 91 ; Mut. 2, 10. Cf. helow, pp. 1 52 £f. 



Aristotelian, such for instance as his argument for the exist- 
ence of one world only.®* Sometimes he aligns himself with 
Aristotle on questions on which the Stoics differ with him, 
as, for instance, the denial of a void outside the world, and 
various problems in connection with virtue.®® But his use of 
Aristotelian terms, expressions, and formulae does not indi- 
cate a conscious discipleship of Aristotle. Most of these 
terms and expressions and formulae by that time had already 
become the common property of philosophy. Sometimes, as 
for instance in his classification of the four causes ®* and his 
distinction between active and passive,®" it is quite evident 
that he has drawn his Aristotelian material from secondary 
sources. Nor does his preference for some view of Aristotle 
to that of his opponents, either in physics or in ethics,®* 
indicate a conscious discipleship of Aristotle, for in almost 
every such instance he considers himself consciously a dis- 
ciple of Moses rather than of Aristotle. And it is also as 
consciously a disciple of Moses that he found himself obliged 
to oppose Aristotle, either indirectly or directly, on doctrines 
which are characteristically Aristotelian. When he con- 
demns all those who reject the existence of ideas,®^ Aristotle 
is undoubtedly meant to be included among them. When 
he condemns “some men” for their belief in the beginning- 
lessness of the world,®'’ these “some men” are the followers 
of Aristotle. Similarly, therefore, when he praises Aristotle 
by name for his belief in the indestructibility of the world, 
it is not because the authority of Aristotle carried weight 
with him but rather because he found it in agreement with 
what he believed to be the teachings of Moses.®® It is sig- 

Cf. below, p. 312. 

Cf. below, P-312. 

Cf. below, II, 268 ff. 
*5 Cf, below, p. 265. 

»» Cf. Opif, 2, 8. 

Cf. below, pp, 312, 314. 

9= Cf. below, II, 272 fF. 
w Cf. below, p. 164. 
w Cf. Opif, 2, 7, and below, p. 2^$, 
95 Cf. below, p. 295. 



nificant, however, that he never opposes Aristotle by name 
as he does Heraclitus, Protagoras, and the Sophists and 

Stoicism is most frequently drawn upon; its terminology 
and phraseology occur in every topic of philosophy touched 
upon by Philo. The Stoics were great disseminators of 
knowledge which they borrowed from others and are too 
often given credit by historians for views to which their only 
contribution was a change in the vocabulary or a minute 
classification or reclassification of parts of a general view held 
by others. The frequency with which Philo follows the 
Stoics merely shows that like many others of his time he used 
the Stoic compilations as a short cut to philosophic knowl- 
edge. But despite all this, and despite also his inclusion of 
Zeno and Cleanthes among the “divine men,” when we ex- 
amine the use made by him of the Stoic material we shall 
find that he is their critic rather than their follower. He 
differs from them on the definition of philosophy and wisdom, 
though ostensibly he quotes their definition of these two 
terms.**® He rejects their conception of God,®** though he 
makes use of the Stoic expression that God is the soul or 
mind of the universe.®* He specifically denounces those who 
deny the existence of ideas, among whom he undoubtedly 
included the Stoics.®® His use of the term Logos may show in 
some respect the influence of the Stoics, but he uses it in a 
sense entirely different from that of the Stoics.”” In his 
theory of the creation of the world he openly rejects the 
Stoic view.”* In his classification of the faculties of the soul, 
indeed, he more often follows the Stoic scheme than that of 
Plato or of Aristotle, and in his description of the rational 

^ CL below, p. 148. CL below, pp. 164, 200. 

97 CL below, p. 176. CL below, pp. 253, 327. 

98 Cf. below, pp. 345 ff. Cf. below, pp. 295, 299. 



soul he uses such Stoic terms as “breath” or “spirit” and 
“ether” and “a divine fragment,” but his conception of the 
soul is in direct opposition to that of the Stoics and conse- 
quently the Stoic terms used by him are not to be taken 
literally.'” In his proof of the existence of God he makes use 
of some proofs derived from the Stoics, but he modifies it so 
as to use them against the Stoic conception of God and in 
proof of his own conception of Him.'®^ In his discussion of 
the virtues and emotions one may discern the influence of 
the Stoics’ vocabulary, but here again the influence is only 
that of vocabulary; in the definition of virtue and its relation 
to the emotions he is opposed to them. In fact, the entire 
philosophy of Philo may be reconstructed as a criticism of 

Now in all those points in which he is opposed to Aristotle 
and the Stoics and the Epicureans he is in agreement with 
Plato. One would therefore be inclined to take him as a fol- 
lower of Plato. But the Platonic views which are accepted 
by him are all radically changed. Such radical changes are 
to be found in his treatment of the theory of ideas,'®"* of the 
creation of the world,'®® of the conception of the laws of 
nature,'®® of the soul,'®^ of the theory of knowledge,'®* of the 
proofs of the existence of God,'®** of the knowability of God,"® 
of the basis of right conduct, and of the ideal state.'" But 
whereas his departure from the Stoics was due to a criticism 
of their views, with regard to his departure from Plato it is 
partly due to a criticism and partly to an interpretation. 
The Platonic doctrine was still in a plastic state, and all those 
who considered themselves its disciples could allow them- 

Cf. below, pp. 393-395. 
Cf. below, II, 78 fF, 

Cf. below, pp, 200 ff. 
Cf. below, pp. 300 fF. 
Cf. below, pp. 347 fiF. 

*07 Cf. below, pp. 395 fF. 

^08 Cf. below, II, 3 fF. 

Cf. below, II, 92. 

^10 Cf. below, II, III fF. 

Cf. below, II, 180 fF., 378 fF. 



selves to knead it so as to suit their own particular use. 
Philo’s treatment of Plato may therefore perhaps be con- 
sidered as a criticism of the common understanding of 
Plato, or of Plato in its original version, but at the same time 
also as an adoption of Platonism in its essential principles 
and a revision thereof and an adaptation thereof to certain 
essential teachings of Scripture. 

Philo is thus a critic of Stoicism and a reviser of Platonism. 
But we may now ask ourselves whether he himself had a co- 
herent system. How would he have presented that system 
if he had not scattered his remarks in flashes as homilies on 
texts? Can we reconstruct that system out of his own 
writings ? He speaks of ideas, powers, Logos, wisdom, and 
an intelligible world, and what he says of them seems too 
fragmentary or vague or inconsistent. Can we reconstruct 
all this into a coherent whole ? He speaks of creation, throws 
out hints of criticism of other theories, and uses enigmatic 
phrases which mean both that the world was created out of 
preexistent matter and that the world was created out of 
nothing. Can we reconstruct systematically his criticisms 
of other theories of creation and state once and for all what 
he really did mean by creation ? He speaks of a Logos within 
the world, expressed in terras borrowed both from Plato and 
from the Stoics, and he speaks also of laws of nature and of 
miracles. Can we reduce all this to a system ? What did he 
actually take from others and what were his innovations? 
What were his laws of nature, and how many of these were 
there, and how do miracles come in ? And can we discover 
some system and find some characteristic contribution in his 
scattered sayings about souls and angels and demons and 
immortality ? And what about the freedom of will of which 
he speaks so often ? Is it the same as that freedom of which 
others before him have spoken ? If not, what is the reason 



behind his departure from his predecessors? Prophecy is a 
Greek term. Is there anything new in his treatment of 
prophecy? And does he treat it in a coherent and sys- 
tematic manner? People before him had tried to prove the 
existence of God. Has he anything new to say about the 
subject? And similarly is his treatment of the unknowabil- 
ity of God something new ? If so, what has led him to this 
view and what consequences followed from it ? And when he 
deals with right conduct, of both the individual and the 
state, does he only repeat the commonplaces of all good and 
true men, or does he introduce something new into the 
philosophic discussion of ethics and politics? This is the 
task we have set before us. 

To all these questions we will try to give an answer in the 
present study. If the answer given by us is correct, then 
Philo will emerge from our study as a philosopher in the 
grand manner, not a mere dabbler in philosophy. He did 
have the power of intellect to be able to reject the theories of 
other philosophers and to strike out a new and hitherto un- 
known path for himself. He is to be given credit for original- 
ity in aU the problems dealt with by him, for in this particular 
set of problems he was the originator of every fundamental 
concept which continued to be discussed thereafter through- 
out the history of philosophy. Like any great and original 
philosopher in the history of philosophy, Philo’s own phi- 
losophy was a reaction against that of his predecessors and 
contemporaries and, in that sense, like any philosopher in 
history if not properly studied, he may be called an eclectic. 
Indeed his learning, like that of many a philosopher in the 
past, was great and varied, and the artificiality of the lit- 
erary form of his writings, again like that of many a philoso- 
pher in the past, often obscures his thought; but despite all 
this he built up a system of philosophy which is consistent. 



coherent, and free from contradictions, all of it being based 
upon certain fundamental principles. Finally, while indeed 
for various historical and perhaps personal reasons he did not 
found any “sect” in the sense that the Academicians and 
Peripatetics and Stoics and Epicureans are said to constitute 
philosophical sects (atpeVeis),'” it is most remarkable that 
without a group of official disciples his teachings became the 
most dominant influence in European philosophy for well- 
nigh seventeen centuries. 

II. The Allegorical Method 

In his attempt to interpret Scripture in terms of philoso- 
phy, Philo assumes that scriptural texts have a twofold 
meaning, a literal or obvious {(fiavepaY meaning and 

an underlying meaning (vnopoia.).^ The underlying mean- 
ing he describes by a variety of terms, among them also the 
term allegory (a\\rjyopia),‘> and to interpret a text according 
to its underlying meaning is therefore described as to allego- 
rize (6XKriyop€iv).^ The underlying meaning of a text as well 
as the allegorical interpretation of it is said by him to be 
“obscure to the many,” ® to be clear only to “those who can 
contemplate bodiless and naked facts,” ’’ to appeal only to 
“ the few who study soul characteristics rather than bodily 
forms,” ® and to be dear to “men who are capable of see- 
ing.” ’ “Allegory ” is also described by him as something 

”3 Cf. Diogenes, I, 19. 

I Com, 3, 28; Ahr, 36, 200. 

* Abr, 36, 200. 

3 Cont, 3, 28; cf. Plato, Republic II, 378 d. 

4 Plant, 9, 36, ct passim, Cleanthes was the first to use the term dXXiryoptxws. 
Cf. H. J. Rose, A Handbook of Greek Literature (London: Methuen & Co.> 1934), 

P- 39 ^* 

s Migr, 37, 205. 

® Abr, 36, 200. 

7 Ibid, 41, 236. 

* Ibid, 29, 147. 
9 Plant, 9, 36. 



“which loves to hide itself” and into which one has to be 
“initiated.”^" All this, as we have seen, means that only 
those who are qualified both by natural abilities and moral 
character and by preliminary training are to be instructed 
in the method of the allegorical interpretation of Scripture.’^* 
Of these two methods, the literal and the allegorical, the 
allegorical is made use of by Philo without any reservation. 
Everything in Scripture, from names, dates, and numbers to 
the narration of historical events or the prescription of rules 
for human conduct, is to him subject to allegorical interpre- 
tation. But as for the literal method, it is to be used, ac- 
cording to him, with certain reservations. One general rule 
laid down by Philo is that no anthropomorphic expression 
about God is to be taken literally. As proof-text for this 
general rule he quotes the verse “God is not as man,”" 
which is taken by him to contain the general principle that 
God is not to be likened to anything perceptible by the 
senses.*^ And so, for instance, he says, the verse “and Cain 
went out from the face of God” is to be taken “in a figura- 
tive sense,” since, if taken literally, it is “greatly at variance 
with truth.” If the question is raised why Scripture makes 
use of such anthropomorphic expressions, the answer given 
by him is that such expressions “are introduced for the in- 
struction of the many” and out of regard "for the ways of 
the thinking of the duller folk,” so that “it is for training 
and admonition, not because God’s nature is such, that these 
words are used.” 

This general rule, however, opens up some new questions. 
Suppose God is described in an anthropomorphic way as 

“ Fug. 32, 179. 

” Cf. above, p. 49. 

Num. 23: 19. 

^3 ImmuL 13, 62; cf. below, II, 97, 
^ Gen. 4: 16, 

« Post I, I. 

Immut 1 1, 54. 

^7 Somn. I, 40, 237. 
Immut. II, 54. 


having said something or as having done something. The 
anthropomorphic manner of expression, to be sure, is not to 
be taken literally. But what about the thing said by God or 
done by God ? Should that be taken literally as a fact, com- 
municated or performed by God in a manner not anthro- 
pomorphic, or should that, too, be rejected in its literal 
sense ? Then, also, how about all the statements in Scripture 
which do not involve anthropomorphisms ? Should they all 
be taken literally, without any restriction, or is there any 
restriction to their literal sense? 

No general answer is given by Philo to these questions. 
But indirectly we may gather that different answers would be 
given by him with regard to different parts of Scripture. 

Scripture is divided by Philo into three parts: “ [i] Laws 
and [2] oracles delivered through the mouth of prophets and 
[3] psalms and other books which foster and perfect knowl- 
edge and piety.’' This corresponds exactly to the tradi- 
tional Jewish division of Scripture into Law, Prophets, and 
Hagiographa. The first of these three parts, the Penta- 
teuch, which, in accordance with Jewish tradition, he calls the 
Law (6 vofxos^ T orah), is subdivided by him into two main 
parts, the historical ilaropiKov) and the legislative {voixoBen- 
Kov); and the historical part is further subdivided into the 
story of the creation of the world (koctjulov yiveais^ kocixotcoikx) 
and all the other stories which in their totality he describes 
as genealogical {y€uea\oyiKbv)J^'^ The story of the creation of 
the world apparently refers to the six days of creation, for he 
defines it as “beginning with the genesis of heaven and end- 
ing with the construction (KaracrKev^v) of the last 

part of the definition would thus refer to the creation of man 
described in the verses “ God made {eTrotrjaep) man ’’ and 

*9 Cont. 3, 25, 

Mos. II, 6, 31. Cf. Berakoi 5a: “Torah means the Pentateuch.” 

Mos. II, 8, 46-47; Praem. i, i. 

« Praem. i, i. 

Gen. 1 : 27. 



“ God formed (jerXacreif) man.” However, from the con- 
tents of his work De Opificio Mundi (^repl rrjs Ko<rpoxoiIas), it 
may be inferred that he has extended it to the expulsion of 
Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden."”® It is not impossi- 
ble therefore that the expression “ending Tvith the construc- 
tion of man” refers to the verse “and the Lord God made 
for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them,” 
which is the last act mentioned before the expulsion. Indeed, 
in connection with this act of furnishing them with garments 
one would expect here the Greek irapaa-Keidi rather than 
KaTadKevfi, for the former refers to an equipment that is mov- 
able and temporary, whereas the latter refers to an equip- 
ment that is fixed and lasting. But Philo himself interprets 
this verse in its allegorical sense as meaning that God “made 
a body” for Adam and his wife, wherein He clothed “the 
mind and the senses as in a garment of skin,” for “by what 
power can the construction {apparatus) of the human body 
be put together more excellently, and in a more becoming 
manner, than by God ? ” The Latin term apparatus in the 
text quoted undoubtedly stands for the term Karao-Kevr] in the 
original Greek text.®* What Philo calls the creation of the 
world thus includes not only the stories contained in the ac- 
count of the six days of creation but also the stories of the 
planting of a garden in Eden,®’ the growing of a tree of life 

Gen. 2: 7. H. E. Ryle, in Philo and Holy Scripture^ p. xxi, takes the expres- 
sion ** the story of the creation of the world ” in Philo to refer only to the story of the 
six days of creation in Gen. i : 1-2: 4. 

55 Gen. 3: 24. 26 Qgn. 3: 21. 

*7 in Gen, I, 53. The same allegorical interpretation of the expression ‘‘gar- 
ments of skins,” or, rather, as the original Hebrew reads, “garments of skin,” is to 
be found in Abraham Ibn Ezra^s Hebrew commentary on Gen. 3; 21. Cf. J. Ber- 
nays, fheophrastos* Schrift Uber Frommigkeit^ pp, 143-144; D. Rosin, “Die Re- 
ligionsphilosophie Abraham Ibn Ezra’s,” Monats schrift fiir Geschichte und Wissen- 
schaft des JudenthumSy 42 (1898), p. 489. 

This underlying Greek term, I am informed by Professor Ralph Marcus, is 
also indicated by the Armenian version. Gen. 2: 8. 


in the midst of the garden,*" the four rivers,*^ the putting of 
Adam into the garden of Eden,** the giving of names to cat- 
tle, fowl and beasts,** the creation of Eve out of the rib of 
Adam,*** the speaking of the serpent,** and the making of 
garments for Adam and Eve.*® There is a very good justifi- 
cation for Philo’s inclusion of all these things in the story of 
the six days of creation, for all of them, according to Jewish 
tradition, occurred on the sixth day of creation.*’ Though 
the opening four verses of the second chapter in Genesis, 
which immediately follows the account of the six days of 
creation in the first chapter, is described by Philo as the 
“epilogue to the narrative of the creation,” ** it is to be as- 
sumed that this description is applied by him not only to 
these four verses but also to the entire two chapters, the 
second and the third, which intervene between the story of 
the six days of creation and the birth of Cain. As for the term 
“genealogical,” by which he describes the post-creation his- 
torical part of the Pentateuch, it is derived from its use in 
Greek as a description of that part of history which deals 
with persons rather than with places, dates, or events.*® But 
its application by Plulo to the historical narrative of the 
Pentateuch is due to the fact that that narrative from Adam 
to Moses and Aaron is presented in the form of a succession 
of generations, introduced by the words these are “ the gen- 
erations” (yevicreis) of so and so.'*® Philo himself indicates 

Gen. 2: 9. Gen. 2: 20. 

31 Gen. 2: iO”i4. Gen. 2: 21-22. 

32 Gen. 2: 15. Gen. 3: i fF. 

3 ® Gen. 3: 21. 

37 Sanhedrin 38b; Tanhuma ed. Buber, Bereshit, §25, p. 9b. 

38 Post. 18, 64-65; cf. Fug. 32, 178, where Gen. 2: 6 is described as coming ‘*im- 
mediately after the narrative of the creation of the world.” 

39 Cf. Colson, VI, p. 606, §47; VIII, p. 313, n. a. 

Gen, 5: i; 6: 9; 10: i; ii: 10; ii: 27; 25: 12; 25: 19; 36: i; 36:9; 37: 2; Num. 

120 PHILO 

both of these reasons for his use of that term when he de- 
scribes the historical part of the Pentateuch as being “a 
record of the good and bad lives and of the rewards and 
punishments set aside for each of them in each generation” 

Let us then see what we may gather about his view with 
regard to the literal sense of each of these parts of Scripture. 

With regard to the story of creation, commenting upon 
the verse which in the Septuagint reads, “and God finished 
on the sixth day His works,” he says: “It is quite foolish 
to think that the world was created in six days or in a space 
of time at all.” The term six is taken by him to mean “not 
a quantity of days, but a perfect number,” to indicate that 
the world was created according to a certain plan and order.'’® 
Moreover, the story of creation is interpreted by him so as 
to make the account of the first day of creation and the 
subsequent repetition of the same account refer to the 
creation of the intelligible world.'*® But, having laid down 
these two reservations, he declares “ that what has been re- 
lated about the creation of the world is consistent with 
strict truth.” 

As for the other stories in what he calls the story of the 
creation of the world, he has four sets of statements. First, 
sometimes he rejects their literal meaning altogether. Thus 
in connection with God’s planting of a garden in Eden, His 
creation of Eve out of the ribs of Adam, and the speaking of 
the serpent, he characterizes these stories, when taken lit- 

4 ^ Praem. i, a. 

42 Gen. 2; 2. Hebrew: the seventh day,” 

« Leg. AIL I, 2, 2; cf. Opif. 3, 13; 7, 26; in Gen. I, i. 

Leg. AIL I, 2, 3. 

45 Opif. 3, 13; cf. below, pp. 31 1 f, 

22, 67. 

47 Gen. I: 1-2; 2:4-5. 

4 ^ Opif. 7, 29-10, 36; 44, 1 29-130; cf, below, p. 306. 

49 in Gen. I, i. 


erally, as “mythical nonsense” or “incurable folly” 5' or 
as being “of the nature of a myth.” s® Second, however, in 
connection with the stories that God put man into the garden 
of Eden to dress it and to keep it, that Adam gave names to 
the various animals, and that the serpent spoke, he some- 
times accepts them all in their literal sense.** Third, he 
sometimes advances two interpretations, a literal and an alle- 
gorical, both of them evidently of equal acceptance to him. 
He does this in connection with God’s planting of a garden 
in Eden,*"* His creation of Eve,** and His making of garments 
for Adam and Eve.*® Fourth, sometimes he reproduces a 
literal interpretation in the name of “some persons,” but ex- 
presses his own preference for an allegorical interpretation. 
This occurs in connection with the putting of man into the 
garden of Eden,*^ the tree of life,** and the four rivers.** In 
accepting the literal meaning of these stories, he sometimes 
tries to show how in telling them Scripture had the purpose 
of teaching mankind an object lesson. Adam was placed in 
the garden of Eden to cultivate it, not that the garden needed 
cultivation, but that “ the first man should be as it were a 
sort of pattern and law to all workmen in future of every- 
thing which ought to be done by them.” God made gar- 
ments of skin for Adam and his wife, in order to teach “wis- 
dom” to those who waste their time in the production of 
useless things and of objects of luxury and to point out to 
them the virtue of “frugality,” by showing that “the gar- 

s® Leg. All. I, 14, 43> in connection with the planting of the garden. 

SI Plant. 8, 32, again in connection with the planting of the garden. 

s* Leg. All. II, 7, 19, in connection with Eve, and Agr. 22, 97, in connection with 
the serpent. 

5 3 ^u. in Gen. I, 14; 20-22; 32. 

54 Bid. I, 6 . S 7 Bid. I, 8 . 

ss Ibid. I, 25, 58 Ibid. I, 10. 

56 Ibid. I, 53- 59 Ibid. I, 13. 

Ibid. 1 , 14. Cf. the common rabbinic statement “The Torah teaches inciden- 
tally proper conduct {derek eres} {Tos. Sotah VII, 20). 



ment made of skins, if one should come to a correct judg- 
ment, deserves to be looked upon as a more noble possession 
than a purple robe embroidered -with various colors.” 

These last three sets of statements, in which Philo either 
accepts the literal meaning of these stories or pays some re- 
gard to them, all occur in his ^uaesHones et Solutiones in 
Genesin, whereas the first set occurs in his other writings. It 
is quite possible, therefore, that the difference of attitude 
toward the literal sense between the first set of statements 
and the other three sets is due to a difference in the type of 
reader to which these two groups of writings were addressed, 
and presumably the type of reader to whom the ^aestiones 
were addressed was less philosophical than that to whom his 
other writings were addressed. But this does not help us to 
explain Philo’s own attitude toward the question under con- 
sideration. One thing, however, is quite certain. On purely 
philosophic grounds Philo had no reason for rejecting any 
of these stories, for throughout his writings he maintains, as 
an essential part of his philosophic system, that God can 
miraculously change the order of nature.®"* Once he declares 
this possible, he can reject nothing in any of these stories of 
creation on the ground that it was contrary to the order of 
nature. In the ^uaestiones, in his attempt to explain the lit- 
eralness of the story of the speaking of the serpent with a 
human voice, one of the explanations he offers is that it was 
a miracle, for, he says, “when anything very marvellous re- 
quires to be done, God changes the subject natures by which 
he means to operate.” Such an explanation could be of- 

Ibid, I, 53. Cf. below, p. 272, n. 59. 

Cf. below, pp. 349 ff. 

^3 in Gen, I, 32. Two other explanations are offered by him: ‘*In the first 
place, it may be the fact that at the beginning of the world even the other animals 
besides man were not entirely destitute of the power of articulate speech.’* This 
undoubtedly reflects the myth, reproduced by Plato, that during the golden age of 



fered by hinij quite consistently with his philosophy, as an 
explanation of all the stories of creation. If sometimes he 
shows a hesitation in resorting to the use of miracles as an 
explanation/^ it is only because, like so many philosophers 
after him, with all his belief in the possibility of miracles, 
he did not want to overuse the privilege of that kind of 

With regard to the historical events after the creation of 
the world, the only qualification of their literal truth made 
by him is that their literalness must be rejected whenever 
by the acceptance of it "‘the inspired words of God” would 
compel one “ to admit anything base or unworthy of their 
dignity,” which, of course, leaves a great deal to the reader 
to decide for himself if a story in its literal sense is base and 
unworthy of the dignity of the words of God. We may men- 
tion, for the purpose of illustration, a few of the stories which 
he does not consider acceptable in their literal sense. First, 
there is the story of Cain that “he builded a city.” Taken 
literally, he says, it would mean that he builded a city all 
by himself, but this, he adds, “runs counter not only to all 
our ideas but to our reason itself”; and hence he interprets 
it allegorically. Second, there is the story of Joseph that he 
was sent by his father to his brethren to see whether it was 

Cronus beasts were endowed with speech (cf. Statesman 272 b-c). Elsewhere, the 
story ** about the days when all animals had a common language” is ascribed by 
Philo to “devisers of myths,” evidently without himself crediting it {Conf, 3, 6; cf. 
E. Stein’s note ad loc, in Philos Werke V, p. 104, n. i; Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 
V, p. 94, n. 58). The other explanation reads as follows; “Thirdly ... the souls 
of those who were first created were rendered acute to thoroughly understand every 
voice of every kind.” The superiority in mental powers of the first created man is 
also dwelt upon by him in Opif, 49, 140-141. 

Cf, below, p. 353. 

Deter. 5, 13. In this passage, I take it, the expression “ the inspired words of 
God,” which is parallel to the expression “laws of God-beloved men,” refers to 
the historical and other non-legal parts of the Pentateuch. Cf. below, II, 190 f. 

“ Gen. 4: 17. Post. 14, 50. 



well with them and well with the flocks.^® In its literal sense, 
he says, this story cannot be accepted by any sensible per- 
son, for “is it likely that Jacob, who had the wealth of a king, 
was so badly off for household servants or attendants as to 
send a son out abroad to bring word about his other children, 
whether they are in good health, and about the cattle to 
boot?”®® and hence he interprets it allegorically. Third, 
there is the statement that “the king of Egypt died and the 
children of Israel groaned under their labors and raised a loud 
outcry.” Taken literally, the statement would seem to 
give the impression that there was a causal connection be- 
tween the death of the king and the groaning and crying of 
the children of Israel, but this, he says, is “contradictory to 
reason” and “contrary to expectation, for one would ex- 
pect, when a tyrant dies, those over whom he has tyrannized 
to be glad and rejoice”; and hence he interprets it allegori- 
cally. Fourth, there is the story of the confusion of tongues, 
concerning which he says that those “who cherish a dislike 
of the constitution of our fathers” find in it similarities to 
certain myths among the Greeks and also raise objections to 
the underlying assumption of the story that a common 
language is conducive to iniquity.'^* And consequently, 
while admitting that these insidious criticisms can be 
answered even by those who are content with a literal in- 
terpretation of the story, still he offers an allegorical ex- 

Now there is nothing in any of these statements to show 
that by his offering an allegorical explanation for the pur- 
pose of removing certain difficulties in the external form of 
the text Philo actually discarded the entire historical set- 

Gen. 37; 13-14, 71 25, 94-95. 

<>9 Dffter, 5, 13. »» Con/, 2, 2-4, 13. 

7 ® Exod, 2: 23, 73 14 ff. 


ting of the story. All these statements merely show that by 
the allegorical method Philo found it possible to explain away 
any narration of incident in Scripture that seemed to him to 
run counter to reason or expectation or to have some similar- 
ity with Greek mythsj without necessarily impugning the 
historicity of the essential basic fact of the story. Indeed 
Cain did not build a city all by himself as the statement 
would literally imply, but still there is no doubting of the fact 
that Cain was a real person and the founder of a city. In- 
deed Joseph was not literally sent by his father to bring tid- 
ings from his brethren, but there is no doubting of the his- 
torical fact that Joseph went to see his brethren and was sold 
by them. Indeed the children of Israel did not lament the 
death of the king of Egypt, as a careless reader of Scripture 
might be misled to think, but still there is no doubting of 
the story that after the death of the king of Egypt the chil- 
dren of Israel did groan under their labors. Indeed there are 
certain rational objections to the underlying assumption of 
the story of the confusion of tongues and indeed there is 
also an external resemblance between this scriptural story 
and certain Greek myths, but the objections are not un- 
answerable and there is also a fundamental difference be- 
tween this story and its parallel myths in that the myths, 
according to Philo, never have an inner meaning,^'* whereas 
this story has an inner meaning. There is, however, no 
doubting on the part of Philo of the authenticity of the main 
story as a historical fact. He explicitly says that he would 
not censure those who accept the story of the confusion of 
tongues literally, “ for perhaps the truth is with them also.” ” 
The qualifying term “perhaps” (lo-us) is used in this passage 
after the manner of the Greek usage of this term on certain 

74 Cf. above, p. 35. 

7 s Conf, 38, 190. 



occasions, not as an expression of doubt but rather as an ex- 
pression of modesty. 

To Philo, then, we may assume, no allegorical interpre- 
tation of a scriptural story, whether justified by him on the 
ground of some inherent difficulty of the text or not so justi- 
fied by him, means the rejection of the story itself as a fact. 
A clear indication of this attitude is to be found in his prefa- 
tory comment to his allegorical interpretation of the name 
Samuel. “Now Samuel,” he says, “was perhaps in reality 
only a man, but here he is conceived, not as a compound liv- 
ing being, but as a mind which rejoices only in the service 
and worship of God.” Here, too, the qualifying term 
“perhaps” is used only as an expression of modesty and not 
of doubt. What he quite evidently means is that his treat- 
ment of Samuel as an ideal type does not deny the existence 
of Samuel as a real person. And so also his allegorical treat- 
ment of all other persons or events in Scripture does not mean 
his denial of their historicity. When, speaking of Enos, 
Enoch, and Noah, he remarks, “whether we think of them 
as men or types of soul,” ” he implies that they are both. 
The Patriarchs, indeed, are symbols of elevated philosophic 
thoughts,'^* but still they are historic persons and everything 
that is told of them is a true historic event. The three per- 
sons who appeared to Abraham as he sat in the tent door in 
the heat of the day” are indeed profound metaphysical sym- 
bols about the nature of God,*® still they were three real be- 
ings, two of them angels, who actually appeared to Abra- 
ham.*^ And the same is true about all the stories narrated 
in the Pentateuch. Not even the miraculous events are de- 

Ehr. 36, 144. 7® Ihid. 20, 99 ff. 

77 Abr. 9, 47. 79 Gen. 18: i. 

Abr, 24, 1 19 ff. 

Ibid. 22, 107 ff.; 285 143 flF.; cf. Gfrorer, I, pp. 290, 291, 293; Drummond, II, 
p. 243; and below, p. 379. 


nied by him as historical facts, though he sometimes tries to 
explain them either as natural occurrences or as having some 
allegorical meaning.®^ Statements like “here we may leave 
the literal exposition and begin the allegorical''^^ occur 
frequently in his discussion of historical persons and events. 

With regard to the legislative part of the Pentateuch, he 
makes two statements. On the one hand, as in the case of 
the non-legislative part, he says of it that the '^laws of God- 
beloved men" are not to be taken literally, whenever their 
literal acceptance would compel one “to admit anything 
base or unworthy of their dignity." This, again, leaves it 
to the individual student of Scripture to decide for himself 
which laws in their literal sense are base and unworthy of 
their dignity. But, on the other hand, he denounces those of 
his own time who saw in the law an underlying meaning only 
and treated its literal meaning with easy-going neglect. The 
inner meaning and the external performance of the law are 
to him of equal Importance. “We should look on all these 
outward observances," he says, “as resembling the body, 
and their inner meanings as resembling the soul." He es- 
pecially mentions the Sabbath, the festivals in general, cir- 
cumcision, and the sanctity of the Temple, as examples of 
laws which have an inner meaning and are also to be exter- 
nally observed.^^ But what constitutes a law in the Penta- 
teuch? Is every statement in the Pentateuch with regard to 
doing or not doing something to be taken as a law? This 
problem is not openly raised by Philo, nor is a direct answer 
to it given by him, but from various statements he makes 
about the laws we may gather that he was both coping with 
that problem and trying to get a solution for it. Technically, 
the legislative part of the Pentateuch is defined by him as 

Deter, 5, 13; cf. above, n. 65. 

Migr, 16, 89-93. 

Cf. below, pp. 350-354. 
Jir, 24, 1 19. 



that which is concerned with “commands” (xpocrrci^eis) and 
“prohibitions” (dTra-yopeiio-eis),*® but he finds that besides 
laws in the strictly technical sense of the term the Pentateuch 
contains also that which he calls “recommendation ” (ivroX'fi) 
or “exhortation” {irapaiviait) or “teaching” (SiSao-KaXta).®’ 
Laws in their strictly technical sense are to him the ten 
commandments, which he calls, as in the original Hebrew, 
“Ten Words,” and which also, because of their divine origin, 
he calls by the Greek term “Oracles,” and he takes pains 
to inform his readers that they are not merely prudent words 
of advice and gnomic sayings but that they are “in reality 
laws or statutes.” Similarly, such laws in their strictly 
technical sense are all the special laws which he happens to 
discuss under the headings of these ten commandments.*’® 
But how many of the laws which he does not happen to dis- 
cuss among his special laws did he consider as law ? Or, were 
they not considered by him as laws at all? And what was 
the criterion by which he determined whether a statement 
in the Pentateuch is to be taken as law or not? In Pales- 
tine, some rabbis happened to say that the Pentateuch con- 
tained six hundred and thirteen commandments or laws.*** 
This necessarily implied certain principles of selection. Cen- 
turies later, different lists of the six hundred and thirteen 
commandments began to be drawn up by various rabbis, and 

Mos, II, 8, 46; Immut, ii, 53; Praem. 9, 55; cf. below, II, 200. 

*7 Leg. AIL I, 30, 93-94. A similar classification is to be found in St, Thomas. 
What Philo calls ‘‘commands” and “prohibitions” are included by St. Thomas 
under the general ttxm praecepta. What Philo calls “exhortations” and “recom- 
mendations” St. Thomas calls mandata. The latter is explained by him as being 
expressed by way of inducement and persuasion and is illustrated by the law about 
returning a pledge before sunset (Exod. 22; 25-26), which law, as we shall see later 
(below nn. 96-99), is not taken by Philo literally. Cf, Sum. TheoL I, II, 99, 5 c. 

Praem. i, 2. 

89 'Decal. 9, 32. 

5° Praem. i, 2, 

Mekilta^ Bahodesh^ 5, F, p. 67a; W, p. 74a; L, p. 236 n.; Makkot 23b. 


Maimonides tried to lay down certain principles of selec- 
tion.®® Did .Philo have in mind a list of commandments and 
some principle of selection? In the Talmud, on the basis of 
the verse “Thy name shall no more be called Abram, but thy 
name shall be Abraham,” one rabbi declares that this 
verse constitutes a mandatory commandment and another 
rabbi declares that it constitutes two commandments, a 
prohibitive and a mandatory, ®‘' and yet it is counted neither 
as a prohibitive nor a mandatory commandment in later 
lists. But, according to Philo, mocking at this verse is wick- 
edness which deserves divine punishment, though he him- 
self interprets it allegorically.®* Did he take this verse to 
constitute literally a legal commandment? 

Philo’s answer to this question may be gathered indirectly 
from the passages in which he happens to touch upon this 
problem. In one passage, in connection with the law about 
returning a pledge before sunset,®® he first criticizes the literal 
meaning of the law as too trivial, ®'' then he shows from the 
wording of the law that, by its use of a future indicative in- 
stead of an imperative, it could not have meant to be a law 
in its literal sense,®* and finally, on the basis of these two con- 
siderations, he interprets it allegorically.®® In another pas- 
sage, in connection with the law that the unclean does not 

9 ^ Sefor ha-Miswot^ Shoresh 

« Gen. 17; 5. 

9 ^ Jer. Berakot, I, 9, 3d. 

95 Mut, 8, 60 ff.; cf. Ritter, Philo und die Halacha^ p. 12, n, i. 

96 Exod. 22: 25-26. 

97 Somn. 1, 16, 93-100. 

9S Ibid., loi; cf. Colson, ad loc, (V, 599). In the Hebrew, mandatory command- 
ments use either (a) the imperative or (b) the imperfect, which are usually translated 
in the Septuagint by (a) the imperative and (b) the future. Prohibitive command- 
ments in the Hebrew use the imperfect with either (a) the negative /o, usually trans- 
lated into Greek by the future indicative with od, or with (b) the negative 
usually translated into Greek by the imperative or aorist subjunctive with Cf. 
M. Adler, Philos JVerke^ V, p. 53, n. i. ^9 Jhid,^ 17, 102 ff. 



become clean until sunset,"® he similarly infers from the use 
of the future indicative that the law is to be interpreted 
allegorically, but still the law in its literal sense is described 
by him as an “inexorable law.” In two other passages, 
in connection with laws relating to priests and the year of 
Jubilee,"® from the use of the future indicative he main- 
tains, with regard to the former law, that Scripture “speaks 
not so much by way of prohibition {arayopehcov) as by way 
of stating an opinion {yvdipriv),” and, with regard to the 
latter law, that it “does not so much exhort {jpoTpeireL) as 
state an opinion {yvap-qv ) Then in several other passages, 
in connection with the laws of leprosy, kingship, and war, 
without mentioning that the laws in question are stated 
in the future indicative, but criticizing their literal meaning 
as being unreasonable on various grounds, he takes all of 
them to have some inner meaning."® Finally in the case of 
one law,"’ stated also in the future indicative, in one place 
he criticizes its literal meaning and interprets it allegori- 
cally,’^®* but in another place he accepts it as a law in its 
literal meaning."’ 

From all this it may be inferred that, while believing that 

Lev. 22: 6-7. 

Somn, I, 14, 81. 

(i) That the priests should not drink wine when they enter the tabernacle 
(Lev. 10: 9); (2) ‘‘Ye shall not sow, nor shall ye reap its growths that come up of 
themselves*^ (Lev. 25: ii). 

Ebr. 34, 138. 

"‘>4 Fug, 31, 171. 

(i) Leprosy in the skin (Lev. 13: 11--13); (2) the plague of leprosy in a house 
(Lev. 14: 34-36); (3) that a king “shall not multiply horses to himself*’ (Deut. 17: 
16); (4) the exemption of certain persons from war (Deut. 201 5-7) . 

(i) ImmuL 27, 127-128; (2) Immut, 28, 131-133; (3) Agr, 18, 84-19, 88; 

(4) 33 > 148-36, IS 7 ; 

That the unintentional manslayer is to remain in the city of refuge until the 
death of the high priest (Num. 35: 25). 

io8 Fug, 20, 106-108; 21, 116-118. 

S ^ ec . Ill, 23, 131-133. 


all the laws are to be observed literally, he feels that not 
every statement in Scripture is law in the technical sense of 
the term, and therefore he is trying to find some criterion by 
which to determine what statements in the Pentateuch were 
to be taken as law. He makes a faint suggestion that the 
wording of the statement, as to whether it is in the future 
indicative or in the imperative, should decide it, but he does 
not follow out this distinction consistently. He makes an- 
other suggestion that the importance or reasonableness of 
the statement should decide it, but this at best is only a sub- 
jective criterion, and he himself does not consistently follow 
this criterion either. He attempts to combine these two 
criteria, but that, too, is not followed by him consistently. 
All we may gather from his discussion is that while to him 
all the laws are both to be observed literally and to be in- 
terpreted allegorically, as a philosopher he only knew how 
to interpret the laws allegorically and to give reasons why 
certain laws should be interpreted allegorically, but, not 
being a jurist, he was not always certain as to what the 
literal meaning of the law was. In some places, he expresses 
his willingness to leave all questions about the literal mean- 
ing of the law to those “ who are in the habit of pursuing such 
investigations and are fond of them.” 

This method of interpreting one system of thought in terms 
of another was not unknown in Greek literature. For the 
Greeks, too, had something like a Scripture besides their 
philosophy, the poems of Homer and Hesiod, which con- 
tained the teachings of popular belief. From the earliest 
times, Greek philosophers appropriated many of the terms 
of popular religion and endowed them with a philosophic 

Immut, 28, 133, cf. Agr. 36, 1 57; Somn, 1 , 17, 102. The reference is undoubt- 
edly to the members of the court of Jewish law {fiet din) which existed in Alexandria 
(cf. ^os, Fdah IV, 6; Ketuht 25a). 



meaning. The first philosopher, Thales, in his reported state- 
ment that all things are full of gods,^“ gave to the popular 
term “gods” a philosophic significance.^" With the formal 
introduction of the allegorical interpretation of Homer by 
Theagenes of Rhegium, this method was followed by such 
philosophers as Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Metrodorus of 
Lampsacus, Diogenes of Apollonia, and Democritus.”^ 
Plato makes Socrates say that the poets are inspired and that 
one has to look in their utterances for some hidden inner 
meaning."** Plato himself, despite his expression of disap- 
proval of the allegorical interpretation of the poets,"® does 
not hesitate to endow the popular deities with philosophical 
significance and to give them a place in his philosophy by the 
side of his philosophic God, the Demiurge, calling them the 
“visible and created gods” and “descendants of gods”; and 
while he does not allegorize upon ancient myths and fables, 
he does not hesitate to make use of them in stating his own 
philosophic views.^*^ Aristotle, also, despite his dismissal of 
popular beliefs as mere fables,"® occasionally interrupts him- 
self in the midst of metaphysical discussions to refer, in sup- 
port of his views, to some tradition handed down from the 
most remote ages, and he does not hesitate to describe such 
a tradition as “an inspired utterance” and as “relics of an 
ancient treasure.” Among the Stoics, Zeno, Cleanthes, 

Aristotle, De Anima I, 5, 411a, 8. 

Cf. Zeller, I, i®, 264-266 {Pre-Socratic Philosophy ^ I, 221-223); Burnet, Early 
Greek Philosophy^ 49-50). 

“3 Cf. J. GefFcken, “Allegory, Allegorical Interpretation,** Encyclopedia of 
Religion and Ethics^ I, 328; J. Tate, “The Beginnings of Greek Allegory,** Classical 
Review, 41 (19^7), pp. 214-215. 

X14 Apology 22 B-c; Ion 533 D-534 e; Protagoras 342 A-347 a. 

Cratylus 407 a; Phaedrus 229 c; Republic 11, 378 d. Cf. J. Tate, “Plato 
and Allegorical Interpretation,** Classical Quarterly, 23 (1929), pp. 142-154. 

Timaeus 40 D. 

^imaeus 40 d; Statesman 268 D-274 e. 

Metaph* III, 4, loooa, 9-19. 

”9 Ibid- XII, 8, 1074b, 9, 12-13. 


Chrysippus, and Diogenes all applied the allegorical inter- 
pretation to the poems of Homer and Hesiod.^^® 

Philo, as we have seen/"^^ does not admit with the Greek 
philosophers that man-made Greek mythology contains 
philosophic truths which are to be discovered by the allegori- 
cal method. But what he denies to mythology he claims for 
the divinely revealed Hebrew Scripture. The readiness with 
which Philo, and by the same tokto also his predecessors 
among Hellenistic Jews, adopted the allegorical interpreta- 
tion was facilitated by the fact that in Jewish tradition the 
Jew was not bound to take his Scripture literally. What is 
known in Judaism as the Oral Law meant freedom of inter- 
pretation of the scriptural text, whether dealing with some 
legal precept or some historical event or some theological 
doctrine. Every verse in Scripture, whether narrative or 
law, was subject to such free interpretation. Some of such 
interpretations may be called allegorical in the strict sense 
of the term,^^^ such, for instance, as when it is said that the 
word ''water'' in the verse "they found no water" and 
the word "tree" in the verse "and the Lord showed him a 
tree" both refer to the Torah,’^^^ or that the words "Gil- 
ead," "Ephraim," "Judah," "Moab," and "Edom" in a 
certain verse in the Psalms refer respectively to Ahab, 
Jeroboam, Ahithophel, Gehazi, and Doeg,^=''^ and finally that 
the lover and the beloved in the Song of Songs symbolize 

Zeller, III, p. 333, n. i {Stoics^ Epicureans^ and Sceptks^^ 356, n. i). 

Cf. above, p. 36. 

On allegorical interpretations in Talmudic literature see L. Ginzberg, ** Alle- 
gorical Interpretation,’* Jewish Encyclopedia I, 403 fF. (1901), with bibliography; 
I. Heinemann, Altj dische AUegoristik^ ^93^* 

^*3 Exod. 15: 22. 

Exod. 15:25. 

“s Mekika, Wayassa\ i, F, pp. 45a-b; W, pp. 52b-53a; HR, pp. 154-156; L, II, 
pp. 89,9a. 

Psalm 60: 9-10. Sanhedrin iO4b-“i05a. 



God and the congregation of Israel.^^® All these are alle- 
gorical interpretation in the comprehensive sense of the term 
allegory. They are as allegorical as the interpretation by 
Church Fathers of such terms as stone, king, priest, Jacob, 
and Israel in various parts of Scripture as referring to 
Christ, and the lover and the beloved in the Song of Songs 
as referring to Christ and the Church.’'^® Now none of these 
is philosophical allegory of the kind we find in Philo. But 
that is not of importance. Altogether too much importance 
is attached by students of allegory to the kinds of things 
which allegorists read into texts, and too much attention is 
given to minute classifications of various types of allegory 
and to distinctions, mainly arbitrary, between what is real 
allegory and what is not real allegory. The allegorical method 
essentially means the interpretation of a text in terms of 
something else, irrespective of what that something else is. 
That something else may be book learning, it may be prac- 
tical wisdom, or it may be one’s inner consciousness. All 
these are matters which depend upon external circumstances. 
The Palestinian rabbis of that time, unlike Philo, happened to 
have no acquaintance with the literature of Greek philoso- 
phy, and consequently they did not interpret Scripture in 
terms of Greek philosophy; but they interpreted it in terms of 
something else which they did happen to know, the accumu- 
lated wisdom of ages, their own practical experience and 
speculative meditations, the urging necessities of changed 
conditions of life, the call of an ever-growing moral con- 
science, and undoubtedly also repercussions of all kinds of 
foreign lore. The main thing is that by the time of Philo 

Cf. Canticles Rabbah to Cant, i : a fF. 

”9 Cf. Justin Martyr, Dialogtis cum ^ryphone^ 76 and 113; 118; 135. 

*30 Cf. Origen, In Canticumy Lib. I (PG, 13, col. 83); St. Augustine, Be Cimtate 
Bet XVII, ao. 


the principle was already established in native Judaism 
that one is not bound to take every scriptural text liter- 

Not to be bound by the literal meaning of the text with 
the rabbis did not mean, of course, that the literal meaning 
was to be rejected. But even to this there were certain ex- 

In the first place, anthropomorphic expressions were re- 
jected in their literal sense. Referring to various anthropo- 
morphic expressions in Scrip ture,^^’^ the rabbis say ''we 
describe God by terms borrowed from his creations in order 
to cause them to sink into the ear,’’ that is, in order to as- 
sist men in their understanding of what is said. Commenting 
on the verse, "and upon the likeness of the throne was a 
likeness as the appearance of a man upon it above,” a 
rabbi exclaims: "Great is the boldness of the prophets who 
describe God by the likeness of the creature.” In the 
Aramaic version of the Pentateuch intended for popular 
use, various circumlocutions are employed to avoid a literal 
translation of the anthropomorphic expressions.^^^ A gen- 
eral rule laid down by the rabbis, whenever they find it 
necessary to reject the literal meaning of a text is "The 
Torah speaks according to the language of men.” 

Then, with regard to the historical narratives in Scripture, 
while all of them were taken literally as facts, there are at 
least two exceptions. The historical framework of the book 

=^31 Amos 3:8; Ezek, 43; 2. 

^32 Mekilta, Bahodeshy 4, F, p. 65a; W, p. 73b; HR, p. 215; L, II, 221. 

^3 Ezek. 1 : 26. 

^34 Genesis Rabbah 27, i. Maimonides {Moreh Nebukim I, 46) uses this as the 
principal rabbinic proof-text for the free interpretation of anthropomorphic expres- 
sions in Scripture. 

^3S Cf. Maimonides, Moreh Nebukim I, 27, with reference to Onkelos, 

^3® Berakot 31b, and parallels, used hf Maimonides, Moreh Nebukim I, 46, es- 
pecially as an explanation of the anthropomorphisms in Scripture. 



of Job was declared by one rabbi to be a mere parable/^? and 
the story of the resurrection of the dry bones in Ezekiel '3® 
was declared by another rabbi to be a mere parable.'®’ 

Finally, with regard to the laws, again, they were all to 
be observed in their literal meaning and were not to be ex- 
plained away as allegories. But their supposed literal mean- 
ing was not really what the letter of the law meant. It was 
what custom and tradition and free interpretation made 
them mean, and often it resulted in what was in reality an 
abrogation of the law as it is written. The best known ex- 
ample is the law of retaliation, which was interpreted to 
mean compensation in money. In this case the rabbis may 
have been less bound by the strictly literal meaning than 
Philo.''*' But whatever their own interpretation of a par- 
ticular law happens to be is not so much of importance to 
us as some of the reasons given by them to explain why cer- 
tain laws are not to be taken literally. Often they are ex- 
actly the same kind of explanations that are given by Philo 
as to why certain laws should have an allegorical meaning, 
namely, the unreasonableness and the impossibility of the 
law in its literal sense as it is written. Two examples of laws 
which have been referred to above in our discussion of Philo 
will show how often the very same reasoning that led Philo 
to conclude that certain laws must have an allegorical mean- 
ing, led the rabbis to give a new interpretation of the law or 
to hint at some unknown hidden meaning which the law may 

First, the law about a king who “shall not multiply horses 

Baha Batra 15a. Eaek. 37. 

^35 Sanhedrin 92b. 

*40 Mekilta^ Nezi^in^ 8, F, p. 84b; W, p. 91b; HR, p. 277; L, III, p. 65. Sifra^ 
Emory Pere'k 20, p. I04d; Baha Kamma 83b. 

■ 141 On the question whether Philo understood the lex talionis literally, see Bel- 
kin, Bhilo and the Ora! LavOy pp. 96-103. 


to himself.’’ Philo argues that this must be interpreted 
allegorically on the ground that its literal meaning is un- 
reasonable, for ‘'the strength in cavalry is a great asset to a 
king” in time of war.^^^ The rabbis^, probably for similar 
reasons, also rejected the literal meaning of the law and in- 
terpreted it, on the basis of the use of the singular in the 
expression “to himself” in its wording, that the law applies 
only to horses for the king’s personal stables, but does not 
apply to horses to be used in the cavalry of the king’s 

Second, with regard to the law about leprosy.’^^^ Philo 
argues that the law must have some inner meaning and is to 
be interpreted allegorically on the ground that in its literal 
sense it seems to be quite paradoxical. “One would probably 
have conjectured the opposite,” he argues, “as indeed it 
would be reasonable to suppose that leprosy, if limited and 
confined to a small part of the body, is less unclean, but if 
diffused, so as to embrace all the body, is more unclean.” 
The Palestinian rabbis similarly wonder and wish to know 
why in the case of leprosy “ a bright white spot on the skin 
of the size of half a bean is unclean, but, if it spread over the 
entire body, it is clean.” And their answer is that it be- 
longs to that class of laws of which God alone knows the 
reason, and concerning one of this class of laws they say that 
God revealed the reason thereof to Moses but withheld it 
from all other people.^^^ The only difference between the 

*43 Deut. 17: 16. 

"43 Jgr. 18. 85. 

"44 Si/re Bent. 158 (on 17: 16), F, p. 105b; HF, p. 209; Sanhedrin 21b; M, San^ 
hedrin II, 4 . 

" 4 s Lev. 13: 11-13. 

" 4 <> Immut, 27, 127. 

"47 Numbers Rabhah 19, i; Stanhuma Num, Eu^\at^ § 3; ^anhuma ed. Buber, 

ibid.^ § 4 . 

"48 Numbers Rahbah 19, 6. 

138 PHILO 

rabbis and Philo is that they did not try to guess what the 
hidden meaning of that law was. 

This is the conception of Scripture with which Philo 
started. The principle that Scripture is not always to be 
taken literally and that it has to be interpreted allegorically 
came to him as a heritage of Judaism; his acquaintance with 
Greek philosophic literature led him to give to the native 
Jewish allegorical method of interpretation a philosophic 
turn. The example of the Greek allegorical method, of course, 
helped and encouraged him and served him as a model. But 
it is conceivable that his allegorical method could have be- 
come philosophical even without such models. When the 
Palestinian type of Judaism, many centuries later, came in 
contact with philosophy, the native Jewish conception of the 
freedom of the interpretation of Scripture led it to develop 
a philosophical method of allegorical interpretation of Scrip- 
ture which has many striking resemblances to that of Philo 
not only in its general character but also in many details. 
Whatever models of that method they had before them, they 
were all Christian and Moslem, and we have reason to be- 
lieve that without the support they found for the allegorical 
method in native Jewish tradition they would not have been 
so prone to follow those models. 

III. Origin of Scripture and Origin of Philosophy 

The theory underlying the allegorical interpretation of 
texts is that the text to be allegorically interpreted contains 
implicitly the truth which the allegorical interpretation at- 
tempts to elicit. But there is a difference between the atti- 
tude of the Greek philosophers toward the texts of Homer 
and Hesiod which they interpreted and the attitude of Philo 
toward the Scripture which he was to interpret. Greek 


philosophers, even those who did apply the allegorical 
method of interpretation to the poets, never believed that 
the works which they undertook to interpret allegorically 
were divine revelations in the sense in which Scripture was 
considered by Philo as a divine revelation. From the de- 
scription of the inspiration of poets and statesmen in Plato 
we gather that it was regarded by him as being on a level 
below the inspiration of philosophers, and as being also a 
type of knowledge opposed to reason.* The general attitude 
of Greek philosophers toward the popular beliefs as em- 
bodied in the poets was that they constituted a primitive 
and rather lower form of knowledge, far inferior to the knowl- 
edge attained by philosophers through reason. If popular 
religion was conceded by them to attain some truth which 
could be elicited by the method of allegorical interpretation, 
it was because the human mind, from the very time it began 
to wonder about the world, saw a glimpse of truth, however 
imperfectly it may have conceived it. Nor did the Greek 
philosophers consider the popular form of religious worship 
as being divinely ordained and of intrinsic merit. Plato in- 
deed recommends the maintenance of the popular forms of 
religious worship,* as does also Aristotle,^ and, of course, 
the Stoics '• and even the Epicureans.® But this recommenda- 
tion was dictated only by practical considerations, such as 
the preservation of the stability of social institutions. Nor, 
finally, did the Greek philosophers consider the constitutions 
and the legal codes of the various states as being of divine 
origin and hence as perfect.® 

* Mem 99 A ff.; I^haedrus 249 d f. Cf. below, II, 20. 

* Cf. Zeller, II, p. 932, n. 7 {Plato, p. 501, n, 40). 

3 Ibid, II, 23, p. 796, n. 3 {Aristotle, II, p. 334, n. 3). 

4 Ibid. Ill, 14 , pp. 320-321 {Stoics, EpicureanSy and Sceptm\ pp, 343-344). 

5 Ibid,, pp, 444-45^ ( 464 - 47 I)* 

^ See below, II, 168-169. 



Quite different was Philo’s conception of the Pentateuch 
and the religious rites and laws contained therein which he 
was going to interpret. The Pentateuch to him was a di- 
vinely revealed document, and the beliefs about God which 
its narrative parts implied, the manner of divine worship 
which it directly prescribes, and the constitution of the state 
and legal codes which it contains are all of divine origin’ 
and hence intrinsically true and perfect. And what was true 
of the Pentateuch was also true of the other parts of Scrip- 
ture, though, in accordance with native Jewish conceptions, 
the recommendations in them were not considered by him 
as Law, and all the utterances in them were considered by 
him as a type of divine inspiration inferior to those of the 
Pentateuch.® Scripture, the whole of it, was looked upon 
by him as containing a knowledge and truth revealed by 
God. It is not a primitive form of knowledge in which the 
human mind through its native power happened to anticipate 
in a misty kind of way the clear and certain knowledge dis- 
covered much later by philosophers through the working of 
the human reason. It is a knowledge clearer and more cer- 
tain than the knowledge attained by philosophers. If it does 
not appear clear and certain, and if it is couched in language 
of which the true meaning is concealed by misleading words, 
it is because God purposely addressed himself in a way 
understandable to all sorts and conditions of men. 

But if the truth revealed by God in Scripture is in agree- 
ment with the truth of philosophy, the question may be 
asked how the philosophers happened to arrive at that truth 
without the aid of revelation. Philo does not directly raise 
this question, but he anticipates it by offering three possible 
explanations of how the philosophers happened to arrive at 
a truth which is in agreement with that of Scripture. 

7 C£. below, pp. 184-185. ® Cf. above, p. 117. 


Sometimes his explanation is a sort of primitive attempt in 
the study of comparative beliefs, customs, and institutions. 
Similarities mean to him samenesses, and samenesses sug- 
gest to him dependence, and so whenever he seems to find 
similarities between what Greek philosophers attained by 
reason and what Moses attained by revelation he attributes 
it to a dependence of Greek philosophers upon Moses. Thus 
in referring to Heraclitus’ theory of the opposites, he de- 
scribes Heraclitus as “conceiving” ® these opinions from 
Moses or as “snatching” them from Moses “like a thief.” 
Similarly, referring to certain Greek laws, he says that the 
Grecian legislators “copied” from the Laws of Moses.” 
Whether this view of the dependence of Greek philosophers 
upon Moses was something which suggested itself to the 
mind of Philo as a plausible explanation of the similarities, 
or whether he was following a belief already current among 
Hellenistic Jews, which had by his time already found ex- 
pression in a work containing interpretations of the Mosaic 
law attributed to Aristobulus, is a question the solution of 
which depends upon whether that work, of which only frag- 
ments have survived in the form of quotations in the works 
of later authors, was a genuine work of an author who lived 
before Philo or a later fabrication.” But with whomsoever 
this view was originated, it has its counterpart in the claim 
of Egyptian priests of the same period that Greek philosophy 
was borrowed from the Egyptians.^’ 

Philo himself, however, does not always insist upon the 

9 in Gen, III, 5. Translation by Ralph Marcus from the Armenian. Latin; 
mutuatus^ having borrowed. 

Ihtd. IV, 152. Translation by the same from the Armenian. Latin;/«rrz?» 
. . , having plagiarized. 

” Spec, IV, 10, 61. 

Cf. above, p. 95. 

^3 See Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica I, Plutarch, De Iside et 

Osiride^ ch. 10. Cf. Zeller, I, i\ p. 22, n. 2 (Pre-Socratic Philosophy^ I, p. 27, n. i). 



dependence of Greek philosophers upon Moses. Sometimes, 
in dealing with similarities between certain views of Greek 
philosophers and those of Moses, he merely dwells upon the 
greater antiquity of the Hebrew writings, without asserting 
the Greek dependence upon the Hebrew. Thus referring, 
again, to Heraclitus’ theory of the harmony of the opposites, 
he merely says that he was anticipated in it by Moses.**' 
Similarly, referring to a moral maxim of Zeno, he says rather 
cautiously that “he seems to have drawn his maxim as it 
were from the fountain of the legislation of the Jews,” *5 and 
again, referring to some moral maxims of the philosophers, 
he merely points out that Moses had said the same thing be- 
fore them.*® Evidently Philo assumes here that philosophers 
discovered the same truths by their native reason. 

Sometimes, however, without directly dealing with the 
similarities between the Greek philosophers and Moses, he 
suggests that philosophy itself was a divine gift to the Greeks 
to enable them to discover by reason with the aid of the 
senses what to the Jews was made known by revelation. 
“It is heaven,” he says, “which has showered philosophy 
upon us; it is the human mind which has received it, but it 
is sight which as guide has brought the two together”; and 
“Philosophy,” he continues to say, “is the fountain of good 
things, all that are truly good, and he who draws from that 
spring deserves praise, if he does so for the acquisition and 
practice of virtue, but blame, if it is for knavish ends and to 
outwit another with sophistry.” The entire passage in 
which he describes the importance of the faculty of sight as 
a guide to philosophy is based upon Plato.*" But the state- 
ment that “it is heaven which has showered philosophy upon 

Meres 43, 214, Mut. 31, 167-168; Mi^r. 23, 128. 

Probus 8j 57. Spec. Ill, 34, 185. 

Ibid., 186. 

Timaeus 47 A; cf. Colson on Spec. Ill, 34, 185. 


us” is his own addition and, judging by the same expression 
used by him elsewhere/” it means here that philosophy is a 
special gift of God to those upon whom he has chosen to 
shower it. Philosophy was thus in a sense revealed to the 
Greeks as the Law was to the Jews. It is thus contrasted 
with the laws revealed byGod, concerning which he says that 
“ they are signs of the divine virtues, graciousness and benef- 
icence, by which he incites all men to noble conduct, and 
particularly the nation of His worshippers, for whom He 
opens up the road which leads to happiness.” Philosophy 
is thus just as much a gift of God to non-Jews as revela- 
tion is to the Jews. This is in accordance with his general 
view, based upon Scripture, that all knowledge comes from 

IV. Faith and Reason 

This difference between the attitude of the Greek philos- 
ophers toward their poets and popular Greek religion and 
laws and the attitude of Philo toward Scripture and Jewish 
religion and laws gave rise to another difference between 
them. While Greek philosophers interpreted mythology in 
terms of philosophy, philosophy never yielded to mythology. 
Plato’s God and the God of Aristotle and the God of the 
Stoics always continued to be what reason had shown him 
to be — an impersonal deity, free not only from the anthro- 
pomorphisms of the popular deities but also from all the 
elements of personality that lay behind these anthropo- 
morphisms. Similarly, in all the other questions of philoso- 
phy they felt themselves free to accept any view they hap- 
pened to favor, on purely intellectual grounds, without 
feeling any compulsion to follow certain preconceptions of 

Leisegatig, Indices, sub hfi^peZv. 

» Mos, n, 35, 189. Cf. below, 11, 51 and 190. 

« Cf. below, p. 202; II, 4 f.; Ps. 94:10; Prov. 2:6; Slrach i:i. 



popular religion — and this despite the fact that Stoic writ- 
ers speak of God in anthropomorphic terms. If the Greeks 
had a priesthood, like the original priesthood in Judaism, 
namely, an organized class of men who acted as custodians 
and teachers and expounders of the inherited religion, and 
if such a priesthood had undertaken the work of the inter- 
pretation of traditional beliefs in terms of philosophy, then 
perhaps the result would have been a religious philosophy in 
which philosophy had yielded also something to religion. 
But among the Greeks there was no such a priesthood and 
the task of the harmonization of religion and philosophy was 
therefore devolved upon the philosophers, who had no in- 
terest in the defense of popular religion as such and who had 
started on their career as opponents of popular religion, and 
consequently, while as statesmen and citizens they were 
quite willing to lend the sanction of their authority to the 
beliefs and practices of the common people, they remained 
intransigent with regard to their own philosophic convic- 
tions. Philo and the other Hellenistic Jewish philosophers, 
on the other hand, though not priests in the technical sense 
of the term, still, like their contemporary lay Jewish 
sages in Palestine, had succeeded to one of the original func- 
tions of priesthood in Judaism, that of guarding, teaching, 
expounding, and handling the Law. To Philo, therefore, as 
an upholder of the religion of Scripture, while Scripture was 
to be allegorized in terms of philosophy, the latter had also 
to meet certain conditions laid down by Scripture. There 
were certain fundamental beliefs in Scripture which he con- 
sidered as essential and to which philosophy had to subordi- 
nate itself. The subordination of philosophy to Scripture, in 
matters which were considered by him as constituting the 
essentials of the religion of Scripture, is a fundamental prin- 
ciple in his conception of the relation between Scripture and 


philosophy, with the result, as we shall see, that not only does 
he interpret Scripture in terms of philosophy but also philoso- 
phy in terms of Scripture. 

This conception of the subordination of philosophy to 
Scripture is expressed by Philo in a statement which is com- 
monly known through its later version: philosophy is the 
handmaid of theology. Let us study the origin and develop- 
ment of this statement. 

In Greek philosophy a distinction is made between what 
was known as encyclical studies (^fckXia) and philosophic 
studies.^ By the time of Philo the term encyclical had come 
to refer in general to the liberal arts, such as grammar, lit- 
erature, geometry, music, and rhetoric,* as distinguished 
from philosophy proper. Now among the Stoics there were 
various opinions as to the value of these encyclical studies. 
On the one hand, Zeno declared “ the encyclical education as 
useless,” ^ whereas Chrysippus, on the other, declared “ the 
encyclical studies as useful.” But Aristo of Chios, follow- 
ing Aristippus, describes the encyclical studies as hand- 
maids (depairaivai) and philosophy as the mistress (SiairoLva) 
or queen (iSao-iXierva).* This Stoic use of the term “hand- 
maid” as a description of the encyclical studies in their re- 
lation to philosophy is reproduced by Philo in his allegorical 
interpretation of Sarah and Hagar, where he takes Hagar, 
the handmaid (eepairatvis), to symbolize the encyclical 

* The distinction already occurs in Aristippus (cf. below, n. 5) and Aristotle, 
Be Caelo 1 , 9, 279a, 30, and Etk. Nic. I, 5, 1096a, 3-4* The term encyclical is often 
assumed to mean the same as exoteric studies (Bonitz, IndeXy sub *kpi(rroT^‘^Sj p. 
105a, lines 27 E; J. A. Stewart in his NoUSy Eth. Nic. I, 3, 1096a, 3). Cf. above, 
p. 24. 

2 Cher, 30, 105; Congr, 26, 146-150; Stobaeus, Eclogae II, 67, 5 (Arnim, III, 
294); cf. below, pp. 150 f. 

3 Diogenes, VII, 32 (Arnim, I, 259). 

4 Diogenes, VII, 129 (Arnim, III, 738). 

s Diogenes, II, 79-80; Stobaeus, Florilegium 4, 109 (Arnim, I, 349 -' 35 <=^)* 

146 PHILO 

studies and Sarah, the mistress (Sda-Toiva), to symbolize 

Then, again, philosophy, as distinguished from the en- 
cyclical studies, is divided by the Stoics into logic, physics, 
and ethics.^ Of these, logic is generally considered as the 
lowest. But as for the other two branches of philosophy, vari- 
ous opinions are expressed. Sometimes physics is said to be 
the highest branch of philosophy, and this is probably due to 
the fact that, owing to the Stoic conception of God as im- 
manent in nature, theology was included under physics. 
Sometimes, however, ethics is said to be the highest branch 
of philosophy, inasmuch as right conduct was considered by 
the Stoics as the aim of all philosophy.* 

Philo, on the whole, follows the view accepted by most of 
the Stoics in including logic, physics, and ethics ** under 
philosophy, considering logic as the lowest. But he departs 
from the Stoics with regard to the place of theology in the 
classification of the branches of philosophy. With his con- 
ception of God as an incorporeal being beyond the physical 
world, he could not agree with the Stoics in including theol- 
ogy under physics. He could have perhaps followed Aristotle 
and made of theology a special branch of philosophy. But 
he does not do that either. He prefers to retain the Stoic 
threefold division of philosophy, but within that scheme of 
division of philosophy he shifts theology from physics to 
ethics. Ethics is accordingly defined by him not only as the 
science “by which the character is bettered and yearns to 
acquire and also to make use of virtue” but also as the 

« Congr. 14, 71-80; cf. 4, 13-19; Post. 38, 130. 

7 Diogenes, VII, 39. 

* Zeller, III, pp. 63-65 (Stoics, Epicureans^ and pp, 67-69); Drum- 

mond, I, 266; Colson, Vol. VI, note on § 99. 

9 Agr. 3, 14; cf. Drummond, I, 263. 

MuL 10, 75. 


science which deals with ''the knowledge of the Maker of 
the world'' from which one gains "piety, the most splendid 
of possessions," and, in contrast with ethics in its new 
conception, physics is described by him as " the study of the 
world." As a result of this new conception of ethics he 
could now with greater reason agree with those of the Stoics 
who considered ethics, which to him includes theology, as 
the highest branch of philosophy. 

This highest branch of philosophy, which includes both 
theology and ethics, is to Philo that philosophy which is to 
be found in the revealed Law of Moses. Taking the terms 
wisdom ((TOipia) and prudence (cl>p6vr}crLs) as representing 
respectively theology and ethics, or, as he says, " the worship 
of God" and "the regulation of human life," he finds both 
of them embodied in the laws of Moses.^^ An allusion to 
these two highest branches of philosophy is found by him in 
the scriptural verse, "Observe therefore and do them, for 
this is your wisdom (cro^ta) and your understanding (crvveais) 
in the sight of all peoples, that, when they hear all these 
statutes, shall say: Behold this great nation is a wise {ao<j)ds) 
and understanding {eTricTrjpwv) people." His substitution 
of the term prudence {cj)p6v7]crLs) for the scriptural term under- 
standing {ahveais) in this verse is undoubtedly due to Aris- 
totle's definition of understanding {avveais) as "the judgment 
concerning those things which come within the province of 
prudence {<l>p6v7j(ns ) His distinction between "wisdom " 
and "prudence," again, reflects Aristotle’s definition of wis- 
dom as knowledge about things divine (^€ta),^^or about "cer- 

” Ibid,, 76. 

” Ibid, 

^ Pruem, 14, 81-84. 

Deut. 4: 6, aliuded to in Proem, 14, 83. 

« Eth, Nic. VI, 10, 1143a, 14-15. 

^ Metaph, I, a, 983a, 6-7. 



tain causes (alTlas) and principles (apxds),” and prudence 
as dealing with the regulation of the life of the individual as 
well as that of the affairs of the household and the state.'® 
In his statement elsewhere, however, that wisdom is “the 
way which leads to God,” Philo seems to include under 
wisdom not only the knowledge of God but also the knowl- 
edge of that kind of right human conduct which leads to 
God. This comprehensive use of the term wisdom is also 
reflected in his statement that “philosophy is the practice 
{hnriiSevaLs) of wisdom, and wisdom is the knowledge 
{^KTTriixri) of things divine and human and their causes.” " 
Now, verbally, this last statement is a reproduction of a 
definition reported in the name of the Stoics,®' with the ex- 
ception of the final words “and their causes,” which are 
evidently taken from Aristotle®* and added to the Stoic 
definition. Still, while verbally this definition of wisdom is 
taken from the Stoics, and similarly, while the definition 
previously quoted is based upon Aristotle, the wisdom which 
Philo, after Aristotle or the Stoics or both, defines as “the 
worship of God,” or as “the way which leads to God,” or 
as “the knowledge of things divine and human and their 
causes,” means to him something different; it means to him 
a worship or a way or a knowledge which is prescribed in the 
Law. Similarly, when after the Stoics he contrasts “philoso- 
phy” with “wisdom” as a contrast between “practice” and 
“ knowledge,” defining the former as the practice of the lat- 
ter, he uses the term philosophy here in a special sense, as 

^7 Ibid. I, 982a, 2; cf. Etk Nic, VI, 7, 1141a, 18. 

EtL Nic, VI, 5, 1140a, 24-1 1 40b, 30. 

Immut, 30, 142-143. 

Congr, 14, 79. 

Cf. Sextus, Adversus Physkos 1 , 13, and parallels in notes in ed. Fabricius, 
n, p. S 39 y Leipzig, 184I. 

Cf, above, n. 17. 


referring to that practice of wisdom which is again prescribed 
in the Law. Wisdom^ as we have already seen, is in both 
Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism identified with the Law."*^ 
Philo himself alludes to that identification when he refers to 
the Jews as '‘one nation alone among all the select nations of 
the earth which are desirous of wisdom.'' Similarly, in his 
homily on the verse " and Moses took the tabernacle," in- 
terpreting the term tabernacle to mean the Law, he says of 
that tabernacle which is the Law that Moses received it 
"from God" and that it is "wisdom" and that it is called 
"the tabernacle of testimony," because it is "wisdom testi- 
fied to by God." It is because of his identification of the 
Law with wisdom, — wisdom, which by the Stoic definition 
is "the knowledge of things divine and human" — that, 
speaking of the story of creation in the Pentateuch, he says 
that therein Moses teaches us certain things concerning the 
existence and nature of God,“^ and, speaking of the ten com- 
mandments and of all the special laws, he says that they 
all train and encourage men to all the virtues,®5» and that 
they all " inculcate the highest standard of virtue." Again, 
since philosophy by the Stoic definition is "the practice of 
wisdom," with his identification of wisdom with the Law he 
maintains that "what the disciples of the most excellent 
philosophy gain from its teaching, the Jews gain from their 
laws and customs." As a result of all this, Philo compares 
the relation of "philosophy," in the sense of Greek philoso- 
phy, to "wisdom," in the sense of the revealed Law, to the 
relation of the "encyclical studies" to "philosophy," for, 
he says, "just as the encyclical culture is the bondwoman 

*3 Cf. above, pp. 20 fF. 

^u. in Gen, 11 , 58. 

^5 Exod. 33: 7. 


Leg, All. Ill, 15, 46. 

Opif, 61, 170; cf. below, II, 209. 
Spec, IV, 25, 134; cf. below, II, 201. 
S" Ibid., 34, 179. 

3 ^ Virt. 10, 65. 



(SoiiXi?) of philosophy, so also is philosophy the bondwoman 
of wisdom.” Later in the same passage, instead of the term 
“bondwoman” he uses the term “handmaid” (depairaivk) 
This subservience of philosophy to wisdom or the Law is 
explained by him in a passage in which he says that “phi- 
losophy teaches the control of the belly and the control of 
parts below the belly and the control also of the tongue,” 
but while all these qualities are “desirable in themselves,” 
still “ they will assume a grander and loftier aspect if prac- 
tised for the honor and service of God”; for the service and 
worship of God, as we have seen, constitutes wisdom, and 
wisdom is the revealed Law embodied in Scripture. When, 
therefore, Philo speaks of philosophy as being the bond- 
woman or handmaid of wisdom, he means thereby that it 
is the bondwoman or handmaid of Scripture. 

His conception of what the relations should be between 
Scripture and philosophy and the other branches of learning 
is fully stated in his homily on the verse “If a man have a 
stubborn and rebellious son, that will not hearken unto the 
voice of his father, or the voice of his mother.” ” Taking 
the terms father and mother allegorically, he interprets, in 
one sense, father to refer to God and mother to God’s wis- 
dom, and, in another sense, father to refer to philosophy and 
mother to the encyclical studies as well as to rules of right 
conduct and just laws enacted by men.^* Then taking up the 
terms father and mother in the latter sense, he says of them 
that they have four kinds of children: first, those who obey 
both father and mother; second, those who obey neither; 

3 * Congr. 14, 79. Cf. Seneca, Naturales ^aestiones, Prol. § i, where the Stoics 
are reported to have said that the difference between that part of philosophy which 
deals with the gods (i*e., physics) and that part which deals with men (i.e., ethics) 
is as great as the difference between philosophy and the other arts {ceterae artes), 
i.e., the encyclical studies. 

33 Congr, 14, 80. 

34 IMd, 

35 Deut. ai; x8, 
Ebr. 8, 30-9, 34. 



third, those who obey the father only; fourth, those who obey 
the mother onlyA’ Of these four kinds of children, those 
who obey both father and mother, that is, those who follow 
philosophy and the encyclical studies and heed also “ those 
principles which are laid down by convention and accepted 
everywhere,” are declared by him the bestA® But the en- 
cyclical studies, as we have seen, are to be subordinate to 
philosophy, and both encyclical studies and philosophy are 
to be regarded “as the pupils and disciples” of God and 
His wisdom, “to whom has been committed the care and 
guidance of such souls as are not unwilling to learn or in- 
capable of culture,” that is to say, philosophy, encyclical 
studies, and man-made laws have been assigned by God for 
the guidance of men who have not been favored by God with 
the special revelation of His Law/® Thus, according to Philo, 
there is to be a harmony between Scripture and all other 
kinds of useful human knowledge, w'hatever their source; but 
the latter are to be the handmaids of Scripture. 

The subordination of philosophy to Scripture means to 
Philo the subordination of reason to faith. This is clearly ex- 
pressed by him in his comment on the verses “Abraham be- 
lieved (ewla-Tevue) God and it was counted to him for jus- 
tice”'*^ and “Not so my servant Moses; he is faithful 
(irta-TSs) in all my house.” Commenting upon these verses, 
he says that “it is best to have faith {TenfftevKivai) in God and 
not in our dim reasonings (Xcryttr/iots) and insecure conjec- 
tures,” for “an irrational impulse issues forth and goes its 
rounds, both from our reasonings and from mind that cor- 
rupts the truth.” The term faith (tticttis), which is im- 
plied in the verb “believed” in the verse “Abraham be- 

37 Ibid. 9, 35. Cf. the “four sons” of the Passover Haggadah in Mekilta^ Pisha^ 
18, F, p, 22b; W, p. 27b; L, I, p. 166, Num, 12: 7. 

3* Ibid. 20, 80. Cf. above, pp. 142 f. ^3 Leg, All III, 81, 228, 

3 ? Ibid. 9, 33. Gen. 15:6. Ibfid.y 229. 



lieved God,” is defined by Philo as meaning that “he had an 
unswerving and firm assumption (cLK\i,vrj Kal pe^alav iroXr?- 
4/iv ) This reflects the deflnition of faith (TriVns) in Aris- 
totle as being a “vehement assumption ” (v'lrokTjrf'is <T<l>odp6.) 
and similarly its definition in the Stoics as being a “strong 
assumption” (^7r6X??i^ts tcrxupa).^^ But in Aristotle the term 
faith is used in the sense of a judgment of the truth of knowl- 
edge, whether that knowledge be an immediate kind of 
knowledge, such as sensation and primary premises, or a 
derivative kind of knowledge, such as conclusions from 
premises in syllogistic reasoning. Now Philo adopts here 
the term faith as a designation of that immediate knowledge 
of revelation which is contained in Scripture. When he, 
therefore, says that “it is best to have faith in God and not 
in our dim reasonings and insecure conjectures,” he means 
that it is best to have faith in the immediate knowledge given 
by God through revelation rather than in the result of our 

The reason why, according to Philo, philosophy must be 
subordinate to Scripture is that human knowledge is limited, 
and philosophy, which is based upon human knowledge, is 
unable to solve many problems. Again and again he tells us 
how iniquitous it is to rely upon our reasoning, and again and 
again he reminds us how philosophers among themselves 
squabble about certain problems which they are unable to 
solve. Following Scripture’s own explanation of the name 
Cain as meaning “possession,” he takes the scriptural per- 

45 Virt. 39, 216, Cf. below, II, 215 f. 

^opica IV, 5, 126b, 18. 

47 Stobaeus, Eclogae II, p, 112, 1 . 12. 

48 An analysis of the term "faith” in Greek philosophy and examples of its 

treatment in the religious philosophy of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism is given 
by the present writer in "The Double Faith Theory in Clement, Saadia, Averroes 
and St. Thomas, and Its Origin in Aristotle and the Stoics,” Jewish ^arterly Re^ 
vieWy N.S., 33 (1942), 213-264. 49 Gen. 4; i. 


son Cain to symbolize the view that all things are the posses- 
sion of man/° in the sense of the Protagorean doctrine that 
man is the measure of all things. The mind that conceived 
that doctrine is characterized by him as being ‘Tull of folly 
or rather of all impiety^ for instead of thinking that all things 
are God's possession, it fancied that they were its own." 

In his refutation of this doctrine he tries to show how limited 
and unreliable our mind and senses are. Mind, he says, must 
rely for its knowledge upon the senses, but the senses, even 
if they are endowed with perfect organs, are liable to error, 
“for to free ourselves altogether from natural sources of 
decay and involuntary delusions is hard or rather impossible, 
so innumerable in ourselves and around us and outside us 
throughout the whole race of mortals are the causes which 
produce false opinion.” evidence for the limitation and 
fallibility of human knowledge, he points to our ignorance 
about our own soul and mind, and to the contradictory views 
maintained by philosophers with regard to them. Is the soul 
made out of one of the corporeal elements or is it incorporeal? 
How is the soul to be defined: as limit or as form or as entele- 
chy or as harmony? Is it at birth infused within us from 
without, or is it something within us which becomes a soul 
by the influence of the air? Is it immortal or mortal? Where 
is it located: in the head or in the heart? As further evi- 
dence of the limitation of our knowledge, he points also to 
many other contradictory views held by philosophers with 
regard to matters which cannot be perceived by the senses. 

so Cher, 20, 65. 

Cf. Fost. 11,35, where Protagoras’ doctrine is described as an offspring of 
Cain’s madness. 

52 Cher, 20, 65. 

53 Ibid,^ 66; cf. 33, 116. 

54 Ihid, 20, 65; 32, 1 13; Somn, 1 , 6 , 30-32; Leg, All, I, 29, 91; Mk/. 2, 10. As for 
the exponents of ^ese various theories of the mind, see Coison on Somn, I, 6, 



Is the world created or uncreated? Will it be destroyed or 
not? Is everything in a process of becoming or in a state of 
being? Is man the measure of all things, or is his judgment 
not to be trusted at all? Is everything beyond our compre- 
hension, or are there many things which are within our com- 
prehension ? ^5 Again, philosophers hold contradictory views 
with regard to the translunar part of the universe. Are the 
heavens made of solid ice or of fire or of a fifth substance? 
Has the outermost sphere any depth or not? Are the stars 
lumps of earth full of fire, or are they masses of ether? Are 
they living and rational beings or not? Are they moved by 
choice or by necessity? And is the light of the moon its own 
or borrowed or both ? s® None of these questions concerning 
the heavens and the stars and the moon, he says, will ever be 
answered with certainty by human reason; and similarly, he 
seems to say by implication, none of the other questions can 
be answered with certainty by human reason. It is for man 
therefore to know that all things are God’s possession,®’ that 
though “ I seem to have mind, reason, sense, yet I find that 
none of them is really mine,” ®® and that our mind is only 
“ the parent of false conjectures, the purveyor of delusion.” 
God, however, whose possession all things are, has in His Law 
revealed to us the truth with regard to some of these contro- 
versial problems, namely, that the world is created,®® that 
by the will of God it will not be destroyed,®’ that some things 
can be known and some things cannot be known,®® and that 
one part of the soul is both incorporeal ®® and immortal. ®‘' 

ss Heres 50, 246. As for the exponents of these various opinions, see Colson ad 

5^ Semn, 1 , 4, ai-24. As for the exponents of these various opinions, see Colson 
and FUlos Werke^ ad loc, 

57 Cher, ao, 65. Cf. below, p. 348. 

s* Ibid, 32, 1 13. Cf. below, II, 118 ff,, 139 fF. 

S 9 Ibid, 33, 1 16. <’5 Cf. below, p. 391. 

** Cf. below, p. 164. Cf. below, P.I393. 



V. Conclusion, Influence, Anticipation 

The belief that certain texts have a twofold meaning, an 
external and an internal, has grown up independently among 
the rabbis with reference to Scripture and among the Greek 
philosophers with reference to mythology, but for different 
reasons. To Greek philosophers myths are primitive wisdom, 
which contain in an inchoate form certain truths of philoso- 
phy; to the rabbis Scripture is divine wisdom, which contains 
in consummate form all that is true in the achievements of 
the human mind. Starting with this inherited Jewish belief 
about Scripture and following the traditional Jewish method 
of interpreting it with unrestrained freedom, Philo adopts 
the method of the philosophers in their treatment of myths 
— the application of which method he denies to man-made 
myths — and tries to find in the inner meaning of scripture 
the truths of philosophy. Scripture thus to him contains re- 
vealed truths which philosophers had to search for and dis- 
cover by reason; and these revealed truths of Scripture are 
either parallel to the rational truths of philosophers, or 
anticipations of them, or even the sources from which the 
latter have been borrowed. Because divine revelation must 
of necessity be conceived as absolutely infallible, whereas 
human reason by its very nature is subject to error, whenever 
philosophy is found to be at variance with what is conceived 
by him to be the uninterpretable position of Scripture, the 
former must be set aright in the light of the latter. This 
conception as to the relation of philosophy to Scripture is 
expressed by Philo in his statement that “ philosophy ” is the 
“bondwoman” or “handmaid” of “wisdom.” 

The ancillary conception of philosophy in its relation to 
Scripture, which was introduced by Philo, continued to pre- 
vail for many centuries in European philosophy, whether 



Christian or Moslem or Jewish. Three different views ap- 
peared in each of these three religious philosophies with 
regard to the relation between philosophy and Scripture — 
views which expressed themselves in the form of three dis- 
tinct definitions of faith. There was a double-faith theory, 
according to which true faith is either assent to Scripture 
without the aid of philosophy or assent to Scripture with the 
aid of philosophy. There was a single-faith theory of the 
rationalist type, according to which true faith is the assent 
to Scripture with the aid of philosophy. There was also a 
single-faith theory of the authoritarian type, according to 
which true faith is assent to Scripture without the aid of 
philosophy.* According to all these conceptions of faith, even 
the double-faith theory and the single-faith theory of the 
rationalist type. Scripture is still the mistress and philosophy 
the handmaid. There will always remain certain elements in 
religion which will have to be assented to without the aid of 

The history of the ancillary conception of philosophy may 
be traced through the history of the designation of philosophy 
as handmaid or bondwoman. 

Directly from Philo this designation passed on to the 
Church Fathers. The statements which we have quoted from 
Philo with regard to the relation of the encyclical studies to 
philosophy and of philosophy to wisdom or theology are 
paraphrased by Clement of Alexandria as follows: “But as 
the encyclical branches of study contribute to philosophy, 
which is their mistress (Sdcroa'a); so also philosophy itself 
co-operates for the acquisition of wisdom. For philosophy 
is the pursuit of wisdom, and wisdom is the knowledge of 

* Cf, reference above p. 1 52, n. 48. In Philo, these fine shades of the problem 
are not discussed. But his treatment of traditionalists and allegorists (above, 
pp. 57-70) would indicate a double-faith theory. 


things divine and human and their causes. Wisdom is there- 
fore the mistress (Kvpia) of philosophy, as philosophy is of 
preparatory culture.” “ Later on he quotes the verse in 
which Abraham says to Sarah : “ Behold, thy maid is in thy 
hand; deal with her as it pleases thee,” * and interprets it: 
“I embrace secular culture {rrjv Koa/MKriv waidetav) as youth- 
ful, and a handmaid (crvvdepairaLvlSa.), but thy knowledge I 
honor and reverence as a true wife.” '* From the Church 
Fathers the conception passed on to medieval Latin scholas- 
tic philosophy. The expression is used for the first time 
among Latin writers, perhaps with a different emphasis but 
essentially in the same sense, by Peter Damian (1007-1072), 
who, in his assault upon the excessive use of dialectics in the 
discussion of theological problems, argued that philosophy in 
its relation to theology must “like a handmaid {ancilla) serve 
its mistress with a certain obsequiousness of servitude.” * 

In Arabic Moslem philosophy the same idea is expressed 
by Averroes in his statement that “philosophy is the com- 
panion or wife {sahibah) of the Koran and its foster-sister.” * 
In Arabic Jewish philosophy, Maimonides expresses the 
same idea in his statement that the various branches of 
philosophy are to him only “strange women”’ as compared 
with the Torah which is, he says, “my loving hind * and the 
wife of my youth” ® and that those “strange women” are 
taken by him only to be unto the Law as “confectionaries 
and cooks and bakers.” 

“ Stromata I, 5 (PG, 8, 721 A-724 a). 

3 Gen. 16: 6. 

4 Stromata I, 5 (PG, 8, 725 b); cf. Phiio, Con^, i 53“I54; Cher, i, 3. 

5 De Divina Omnipotent ia, Ch, 5 (PL, 145, 603 c). 

^ Kitah FasJ al-Maqal wa-tTaqrtr^ in Muller, Fkilosophie und ^heologie von 
Averroes, Arabic text, p. 26, 11. 3-4. 

7 Prov. 2: 16. ® Prov, 5; 19. 

5 MaL 2: 14; Isa. 54; 6. 

I Sam. 8: 13. Kohes, 1, 49, p. 12 va. 



Underlying this ancillary conception of philosophy in its 
relation to Scripture is the belief that Scripture is not a book 
like all other books: it contains direct revelations from God. 
This belief which Philo asserted about the Hebrew Scripture 
was extended in Christianity to the Greek Scripture and in 
Islam to the Arabic Scripture. But both to Christianity and, 
with certain qualifications, to Islam, the Old Testament still 
continued to be the word of God. When in the early history 
of Christianity the Gnostics tried to deny the divine origin 
of the teachings of the Old Testament, a spokesman of their 
opponents among the Church Fathers declared that “both 
Testaments are the revelation of one and the same House- 
holder, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ,” ” and that 
“there is but one and the same God, who ordered them both 
for the good of those men in whose time the Testaments 
were given.” Similarly in Islam, at least all those parts of 
the Old and the New Testament which are reported in the 
Koran or which are ascribed by tradition to Mohammed, are 
recognized as divine revelations.’^ 

Each of these three religious philosophies in their subse- 
quent history continued to see in their respective Scriptures 
two meanings, a literal and an underlying one; and the un- 
derlying meaning was philosophy. The philosophy supposed 
to be hidden in Scripture changed from time to time, but 
whatever it happened to be, it was always sought out by the 
allegorical method of interpretation. This method of inter- 
pretation was learned by the Church Fathers directly from 

Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses IV, 9, i, 

“ Ihid. IV, 32, a; cf. IV, 35, a. 

^3 Cf. D. S. Margoliouth, “Old and New Testament in Muhammadanism,** 
Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics IX, 481; I. Goldziher, “Ueber muhammeda- 
nische Polemik gegen Ahl al-kit^b/* Zeitschrift der Beutschen Morgenlandischen 
Gesellschaft^ 3a (1S78), 341-387; D. B. Macdonald, Aspects of I slam^ PP* 


Philo; from them passed on to Islam, and then also to a 
Judaism which had no direct contact with Philo, but in the 
latter it was recognized as an old native Jewish method.^s The 
questions touched upon by Philo as to the extent to which 
literal meanings of the text are to be accepted were dis- 
cussed by various philosophers in all the three religions. On 
the whole, they followed out certain suggestions made by 
Philo himself. In Christianity, Origen lays down the rule 
that the literal sense of Scripture is to be rejected only 
when it is irrational and impossible, and according to this 
rule he rejected certain historical narratives as well as laws 
in both the Old and the New Testaments as not to be taken 
literally; among these he mentions in particular, as in Philo, 
the story of the creation of the world in six days, the story 
of the planting of a garden in Eden, and the story of the 
creation of Eve.^'^ St. Augustine, similarly, asserts that the 
literal sense should be rejected when it is opposed to true 
faith or moral propriety.^’ In Islam, Averroes tells us that 
“all Moslems are in agreement that it is not necessary to 
take all the expressions of the Koran in their external sense 
nor is it necessary to divest them all of their external sense 
by means of interpretation, though they differ as to which 
needs interpretation and which is in no need of interpreta- 
tion.” In medieval Jewish philosophy, Saadia lays down 
the rule that only those texts should not be taken literally 
which in their literal meaning are obviously contrary to fact 

On the question whether the Church Fathers received their allegorical method 
from Philo, see S. Davidson, Sacred Hermeneutics^ 1843, P* Siegfried, J^hik 

von AlemndriCy 1875, PP* 344“34^> 35^"35^J Nock, “The Loeb Philo,” "fhe 
Classical Revieve 75 (1943), p. 78, n. 2. 

Cf. above, p. 138. 

De Principiis IV, i, 16; Contra Celsum IV, 38. 

^7 De Doctrina Christiana III, 10, 14. 

** Kitab Fas! aUMaqal wa-iaqrir^ in Muller, Fkilosophie und Itlu^ olo^ ton 
Averroes y Arabic text, p. 8, IL 7-9. 



or imply anthropomorphisms or are self-contradictory or, 
in the case of law, have been already interpreted in a non- 
literal sense by the rabbis of the Talmud.^’ Maimonides 
particularly emphasizes that the “account given in the 
Pentateuch of creation is not, as generally believed by the 
common people, to be taken in its literal sense in all its 

With the general adoption in Christian, Moslem, and 
Jewish philosophy of the Philonic view that Scripture has an 
inner meaning and that that inner meaning is Greek philoso- 
phy, the question was raised, in all these three philosophies, 
as to where the Greeks got their philosophy. The three ex- 
planations offered by Philo reappeared in all these three 

In Christian philosophy, Justin Martyr, like Philo, some- 
times speaks of Plato as having borrowed from the Prophets 
or from Moses,” and sometimes he says that those truths 
which the prophets saw and heard “when filled with the 
Holy Spirit” and uttered without “demonstration,” such 
philosophers as Socrates became acquainted with only “by 
means of the investigation of reason,” and this because the 
reason which they employed is a reflection of the Reason or 
the Word which is Christ, “who is in every man.” Reflect- 
ing even Philo’s statement that “philosophy was showered 
down by heaven,” he says that “the many have not divined 
what philosophy is and for what end it is sent down to men.”*® 
Similarly, Clement of Alexandria sometimes speaks of “the 
plagiarism of the Greek from the Barbarian [i.e. Hebrew] 
philosophy,” but sometimes he quotes Philo almost ver- 

Emunot we-Be^ot VII, 2. 24 

Moreh Nebukim II, 29. Apologia II, 10. 

Apologia I, 59. Bialogus cum l^ryphone, 2* 

Ihid.^ 60. *7 Stromata V, 14, 

Bialogus cum ^ryphone^ 7. 


batim by saying that Greek preparatory culture and Greek 
philosophy “have come down from God to men ... in the 
way in which showers fall down.” Philosophy, according 
to him, was revealed to the Greeks as the Law was revealed 
to the Hebrews, and both were revealed by God for the pur- 
pose of preparing the minds of those to whom they were re- 
vealed for the advent of Christ; and just as the old and 
the new revelations are called the covenants of God with the 
people so also philosophy is said by him to have been given 
by God to the Greeks “as a covenant peculiar to them.”’® 
To these two explanations Eusebius adds Philo’s third ex- 
planation, namely, that philosophers discovered the same 
truth by their native reason. Trying to show by parallel 
passages from Scripture and Plato that “Plato followed the 
all-wise Moses and the Hebrew prophets in regard also to 
the teaching and speculation about things incorporeal and 
seen only by the mind,” he says “[i] whether it were that 
he learned from hearsay which had reached him ... or 
[2] whether of himself he hit upon the true nature of things, 
or, [3] in whatever way, was deemed worthy of this knowl- 
edge of God.” In another place Eusebius only gives the 
first two explanations, saying that either [i] the Greeks have 
procured their knowledge from the Hebrews or [2] “they 
were moved to the same conclusions by innate conceptions.”^* 
The theory of Plato’s dependence upon Moses was first ac- 
cepted and then rejected by St. Augustine; he himself, like 
Philo, advances the shower from heaven theory.^^ 

Repercussions of these views, probably from Christian 
sources, are also to be found in Arabic literature. According 
to the Encyclopedia of the Ikhwan al-Safa, in the second 

as Ziid. I, 7. SI Praeparatio Evongilica XI, 8. 

« Ibid. I, 5; VI, 6, 13, 17; VII, 2. » Ibid. X, I. 

3 " Ibid. VI, 8 (PG, 9, 288 c). S3 Be Cisilate Dei VIII, l" - 



half of the tenth century, the sciences {al-uluni) and phi- 
losophies (al-hikam) on which the Greeks pride themselves 
were borrowed pardy from “ the learned men of the children 
of Israel in the days of Ptolemy” and partly from “ the sages 
of the Egyptians in the days of Themistius,” while the chil- 
dren of Israel themselves had partly “inherited them from 
the books of their prophets,” who had come by them by 
means of revelation, and pardy — especially such arts as 
mechanics {hiyal), magic (sihr), conjurations the 

setting up of talismans, and the enticements of the powers — 
borrowed them from other nations at the time of King 
Solomond'* According to Shahrastani, in the first half of the 
twelfth century, Thales borrowed his view that water was 
the prime element from the Hebrew Scripture,^® and Empe- 
docles, according to him, “lived at the time of David to whom 
he betook himself and under whom he studied.” Averroes, 
however, in the latter part of the twelfth century, only says 
that “nobody doubts that among the children of Israel there 
were many philosophers {hukama'), as is evident from the 
books which are found among the children of Israel and 
which are attributed to Solomon. Philosophy has always 
existed among those who were divinely inspired, namely, the 

Among the Jews of the Arabic period, two views are ex- 
pressed with regard to the relation of philosophy to Scripture. 
On the one hand, Judah Ha-Levi asserts that “the roots and 
principles of all sciences were handed down from us [the 
Jews] first to the Chaldaeans, then to the Persians and 

Cf. Fr. Dieterid, Thter und Mensch vor dem Kontg der Genietty Arabic text, 
Leipzig, 1879, P* 4'“^^* 

35 Kitab al-Milal wal-Ni'^ly ed. Cureton, p. 256, 11 . 5-^. 

Ihid.y p. 260, 1. 7. 

37 ^ahdfut al~^ahdfut IV (XX), ed. M. Bouyges, § 6, p. 583, 11 . 10-13; cf. Munk, 
Guide des tgariSy I, p. 332, n. 3. 


Medians^ then to Greece, and finally to the Romans''; but, 
on the other hand, Maimonides merely asserts that Jews had 
once cultivated the science of physics and metaphysics 
which they later neglected by reason of persecution.^^ In 
Hebrew literature of a later period, legends appeared that 
Aristotle became converted to Judaism or even that he was 
of Jewish descent.^® 

This is how philosophy was made the handmaid of Scrip- 
ture by Philo, and this is also how throughout the centuries 
of Christian, Moslem, and Jewish thought philosophy con- 
tinued to be a handmaid. From this position, Spinoza sought 
to emancipate it in his ’Tractatus Theologico-PoliHcus^ a 
philosophic work which, like the philosophic works of Philo, 
is written in the form of discussions of scriptural topics and 
verses. In his effort to emancipate philosophy from its 
ancillary position, he goes to the very root of the problem — 
the belief in revelation. By denying revelation, he reduces 
Scripture to the status of the works of the Greek poets, and 
as a result of this he revives the classical conception of Greek 
philosophers as to the relation between popular beliefs and 
philosophic thought. 

3* Cuzari II, 66 . 

39 March Nebukitn I, 71. 

-♦9 Cf. D. Cassel, Das Buck Kuzari^ p. 47, n. i. 



The conception of Scripture as mistress of which philosophy 
is to be the handmaid means in Philo that Scripture contains 
certain unshakable beliefs, constituting a preamble of faith, 
to which philosophy must accommodate itself. What these 
unshakable beliefs are is made clear by Philo himself in 
three places in his works. In one place, he enumerates five 
lessons which, he says, Moses meant to teach us by his ac- 
count of the creation of the world. They are: (i) the exist- 
ence of God; (2) the unity of God; (3) the creation of the 
world; (4) the unity of the world; (5) divine providence.^ In 
another place, he enumerates five classes of people who, ac- 
cording to him, are condemned in Scripture as ‘‘impious 
(aare^els) and unholy {avoaioi)^'' that is to say, as men with- 
out religion. They are: (i) those who deny the existence of 
incorporeal ideas; (2) those who deny the existence of God; 

(3) those who believe in the existence of many gods; and 

(4) those who assume the existence of no god beyond the 
human mind or (5) the senses.^ In other places he speaks 
(i) of the belief (TrtVrts) that “the laws [of Moses] were not 
inventions of a man but quite clearly the oracles of God’^ ^ 
and (2) of the hope (4Xxis) that “they will remain for all 
future ages as though immortal, so long as the sun and moon 
and the whole heaven and universe exist.’’ ^ Combining 
these passages, we find that they lay down eight principles as 
constituting the essential principles of the religion of Scrip- 

^ Opif. 61 y I7O-I72. 

* Spec . I, 60, 327-^3, 344* 

® Dual 4, 15; cf. Mas. II, 3, 12; Probus 12, 80. 

* Mos. II, 3, 14. 


ture, namely: (i) the existence of God, (2) the unity of God, 
(3) divine providence, (4) the creation of the world, ^ (5) the 
unity of the world, (6) the existence of incorporeal ideas, 
(7) the revelation of the Law, and (8) the eternity of the 

Now the first six of these eight principles which he de- 
scribes as being scriptural doctrines are also principles taught 
in Greek philosophy. It is therefore necessary for us to de- 
termine, again from PhUo’s own words, whether in those 
principles, which are stated by him in a general way as be- 
ing taught in Scripture, there are certain characteristic 
features which distinguished them from the same principles 
as taught in philosophy. 

The principle of the existence of God is described by Philo 
with sufficient detail to make it clear that he advanced it in 
opposition to two schools of Greek philosophy: (i) those who 
“have hesitated and have been of two minds about His 
existence,” and (a) those who “have carried their audacity 
to the point of declaring that He does not exist at all”; and 
both these schools of philosophy are described by him as 
atheists.’’ The first of these schools quite obviously refers to 
the Sceptics, though in Sextus Empiricus they are not in- 
cluded among the atheists but are treated as opponents of 
both the theists and atheists.® As for the second school, it 
is not clear to whom it refers, and it may be asked whether 

s In Prohus 12, 80, he says of the Essenes that they retain of philosophy only 
that part which treats philosophically of the existence of God and the creation of 
the universe. The denial of the existence and providence of God and of the creation 
of the world are condemned in Somn. II, 43, 283. 

^ Neumark mentions only the five principles enumerated in De Opifido Mundt 
as constituting the principles of Judaism according to Philo {Geschickte der jUdU 
schen Philosophie des Mittelalters, I, 41; "foUdot ha-Piiowfiah he-Yisra^el^ I, 40; 
tokdot ha-*Ikkarim be-Yism*el^ II, 93-94); cf. also Stein, Pilon ha-Alemnderonl^ 
p, 1 13, n. i; Goodenough, By Lights Lights p. 122. 

^ Opif. 61, 170. 

^ Adversus Physicosl^ 19I- 


1 66 

among those whom he describes as den5dng the existence of 
God altogether he meant to include Epicurus. Elsewhere, 
in his allusions to the Epicureans, Philo criticizes them only 
for their hedonism and for their atomism; ® never for the 
denial of the existence of God. The attitude of Epicurus 
towards the existence of God, as reported by Sextus Empiri- 
cus, is as follows : “According to some, Epicurus in his popu- 
lar exposition allows the existence of God, but in expounding 
the real nature of things he does not allow it.” ” Whether 
Epicurus was sincere in his declaration of the existence of 
gods in his popular exposition had been a subject of discus- 
sion even before the time of Philo. “ Philo himself, as we shall 
see later, attacks Epicurus’ popular conception of the gods 
on the ground of its implication of corporeality, and he un- 
doubtedly could have also attacked it on the ground of its 
polytheism." Moreover, there is a passage in which Philo 
definitely indicates that Epicurus is not to be included among 
the atheists. In that passage he contrasts with the view of 
those who say that “the Deity does not exist” the views of 
those who say that “it exists but does not exert providence ” 
and also that the world, though created, “is borne on by 
unsteady courses, just as chance may direct.” These lat- 
ter views are quite evidently those of Epicurus, and still 
Philo describes them as views assuming the belief in the ex- 
istence of God. The question may, therefore, be legitimately 
raised whether he meant to include here Epicurus among 
those who denied the existence of God. An answer to this 
question may perhaps be found in his description of this sec- 

9 Cf, Fug, 0 . 6 , 148. See Leisegang, Indices, under “Epikouros.” 

Sextus, Adversus Fhysicos I, 58. 

“ Cicero, De Natura Deorum I, 30, 85; 44, 123; III, i, 3; Dtf Divinatione II, 17, 
40; cf. Zeller, III, p. 445, n. 0 {Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics^, p. 465, n. 2); 
C. Bailey, The Greek Atomists and Epicurus, p. 438. 

“ Cf. below, p. 176. ^3 ConJ, 23, 114. 


ond school as declaring that the existence of God “is a mere 
assertion of men obscuring the truth with myth and fiction.’'*^ 
This would seem to indicate that by his second school he does 
not refer to the followers of Epicurus but to the followers of 
some other atheist. For this description is given in fuller form 
in another passage, where he describes those who deny the 
existence of God and profess atheism as maintaining that 
God “is alleged to exist only for the benefit of men who, it 
was supposed, would abstain from wrongdoing in their fear 
of Him whom they believed to be present everywhere and to 
survey all things with ever-watchful eyes.” Now this view, 
that religion was invented as a restraint upon wrongdoing, 
is not Epicurean, but it is the view of Critias, who is described 
as belonging to “the company of the atheists.”^* It is ex- 
pressed by him in the following lines: “Some shrewd man, 
a man in counsel wise, first discovered unto men the fear of 
Gods, thereby to frighten sinners should they sin even 
secretly in deed, or word, or thought. Hence was it that he 
brought in Deity, telling how God . . . hears with His mind 
and sees, and taketh thought and heeds things.” Critias 
the Athenian, it may be remarked again, is mentioned to- 
gether with Diogenes of Melos and Theodorus as one of 
the chief exponents of atheism.'* 

Besides these two schools of philosophers whom he de- 
scribes as atheists, Philo also opposes his conception of the 
existence of God to the conception of those whom he de- 
scribes as the “champions of mind” (vov Trpoara.TaC)'-^ and 
“champions of the senses” {aicrdri(Tt(i}i' vpocrr&Tai),^’’ that is, 
those who ascribe to their own mind and their own senses 
powers which really belong to God. As to whom especially 

^■1 Opi/. 61, 170. Sextos, PyrrAomaelnslitu/iones 111 , 21S. 

« Spec. I, 60, 330. Spec. 1 , 61, 334. 

^ Sextus, Aiterzus Physicoz 1 , 54. ” Ibid., 62, 337. 

Ibid,', cf. Plato, Laws X, 889 e. 



he means by these two classes of champions, it is a question 
which students of Philo have found difficult to answer.*^ 
But we shall try to show that these classes of champions 
refer to followers of two interpretations of the Protagorean 
doctrine which has been transmitted to us in the form “man 
is the measure of all things.” “ 

That by “champions of mind” Philo refers to the Protago- 
rean doctrine can be shown by the fact that elsewhere this 
Protagorean doctrine, correctly ascribed by him to “one of 
the ancient sophists named Protagoras,” is reproduced by 
him not in the form in which it has generally been transmit- 
ted but rather in the form that “ the human mind (rous) is 
the measure of all things.” When, therefore, Philo speaks 
of “champions of mind,” this expression could well refer to 
the Protagorean doctrine as reproduced by himself. More- 
over, his description of the “champions of mind,” as well as 
of the “champions of the senses,” as those who “make gods” 
of the object which they champion and as “forgetting in 
their self-exaltation the God who truly exists,” and also 
his statement, evidently referring to the same doctrine, that 

Heinemann {Philos Werke II, p. 103, n. 2; Bildungy p. 176, n. 2) identifies 
“champions of mind” with Stoics and “champions of the senses” with Epicureans 
or with philosophically untrained persons in general or with the Cynic Diogenes. 
Goodenough {By Lights Light, pp. 124-125) similarly identifies them with Stoics and 
Epicureans respectively. Colson (VII, p. 622) thinks that they do not refer to any 
particular schools of philosophy, but to ways of thinking in general. An obvious ob- 
jection to the identification of the “champions of mind” with the Stoics is that the 
mind spoken of here by Philo is the human mind, whereas the mind identified with 
God by the Stoics is the mind of the universe. 

Cratylus 385 E; Theaetetus 152 a; Metaph. X, i, 1053a, 36; see also Diels, Frag^ 
mente der Vorsohratiker, under Protagoras, Fr. i. 

Pozt, II, 35. The term “human mind” occurs also in his allusion to the 
Protagorean maxim in Somn, II, 29, 193, In Post, ii, 36, he quotes Protagoras 
literally as “man is the measure of all things,” but explains it to mean that “all 
things are a present and gift of the mind.” Cf. also Heres 50, 246 and comment 
below at n. 35. 

Spec, I, 63, 344. 


“the mind shows itself to be without God and full of self- 
exaltation, when it deems itself as on a par with God,” 
tally with the description he himself gives of those who 
follow the Protagorean doctrine in a passage wherein he 
challenges them: “Why, pray, are you any longer ready to 
deliver grave and solemn discourses about holiness and honor- 
ing God, and to listen to such discourses from others, seeing 
that you have with you the mind that takes the place of 
God ? ” This passage, as may be seen, reflects both in 
language and in sentiment the statement in Plato that 
Protagoras, as a consequence of his doctrine of measure, 
addressed his followers thus: “Excellent boys and old men, 
there you sit together declaiming to the people, and you bring 
in the gods, the question of whose existence or non-existence 
I exclude from oral and written discourses.” 

The “champions of mind” are thus the followers of Pro- 
tagoras, whose doctrine, reproduced by Philo as “the human 
mind is the measure of all things,” implies, if not an outright 
denial of the existence of God, at least a suspension of judg- 
ment with regard to His existence and also a transference to 
mind of powers which really belong to God. 

As for the “champions of the senses,” we shall try to show 
that it refers to the same doctrine of Protagoras, except that 
for the term “mind” in Philo’s own restatement of Protag- 
oras’ formula is substituted the term “senses.” That these 
two classes of champions, despite their being described by 
Philo as “a fourth and a fifth class,” ** are really subdivisions 
of one group of followers of the same doctrine is quite evi- 
dent from his statements that both of them “seek the same 
goal,” that both of them are “votaries of the pestilence of 

« Leg. All. I, 15, 49. 

^ Fast. II, 37. 

“I theaetetus 162 d; cf. Diogenes, IX, 51. 

Spec. 1 , 61, 333. 



self-exaltation,” *** and that both of them are symbolically 
referred to in the verse “an Ammonite or a Moabite shall not 
enter into the assembly of the Lord.” But why he should 
subdivide the followers of Protagoras into “champions of 
mind” and “champions of the senses” may be explained on 
the ground of certain additional information we may gather 
about the Protagorean doctrine. According to Plato, Pro- 
tagoras’ doctrine that “man is the measure of all things” 
implies that “perception by the senses ” (ato-drjcns) is “knowl- 
edge” (^irtcTTi^/xTj)/^ or, as it is restated by Diogenes Laertius, 
“soul is nothing apart from the senses.” According to 
Aristotle, however, the “man” who in the Protagorean doc- 
trine is the measure of all things refers either to the man who 
possesses “knowledge” (hncrTviJtr}), that is, mind, or to the 
man who possesses “perception by the senses” {aladiitns) 
We may reasonably assume that Philo had knowledge of 
Aristotle’s explanation of the Protagorean doctrine as mean- 
ing by “man” either “knowledge,” that is, “mind,” or 
“perception by the senses.” In one place, therefore, repro- 
ducing this doctrine in the name of Protagoras, he allowed 
himself to substitute the term “human mind” for the term 
“man”; in other places, making use of this doctrine as an 
explanation of the verse about the non-admissibility of both 
a Moabite and an Ammonite into the assembly of the Lord, 
he presents it according to both its Aristotelian interpreta- 
tions, one in terms of mind, symbolized by the Moabite, and 
one in terms of the senses, symbolized by the Ammonite.” 
That by the championship of mind and the senses he means 

’9 Ibid.; cf. 63, 344. 

Deut. 123: 4; spec. I, 61, 333; Leg. All. Ill, 25, 81; Fast. 52, 177. 

3* S*heaetetus 151 e~I52A4 

3 * Diogenes, IX, 51. 

w Metaph. X, i, 1053a, 35~io53b, 2. 

I.e. (a) Fost ii, 35, and (b) Spec. 1 , 61, 333; Leg. All. Ill, 25, 81. 


the Protagorean doctrine is evident from a passage in which 
he contrasts “those who argue at length that man is the 
measure of all things with those who make havoc of the 
judgment-faculty of both sense and mind.” From this 
contrast it is quite evident that by the Protagorean principle 
that man is the measure of all things he understood man’s 
reliance upon the sole judgment of mind and the senses. 

The principle of the unity of God means to Philo four 
things. First, it means to him a denial of popular polytheism 
and idolatry, of which he gives a variety of examples.** 
Taken in this sense, it is derived by him from the first two 
of the ten commandments *’ and also from the verse: “The 
Lord thy God is alone God, in heaven above and on earth 
beneath, and there is none beside Him,” ** though he finds 
support for it also in Aristotle’s quotation of the Homeric 
saying: "The government of the many is not good; let there 
be one governor, one king.” Second, it means to him the 
uniqueness of God, denying that there is anything like unto 
Him. He derives it from the verse “It is not good that man 
should be alone,” which he finds to imply the opposite, that 
“it is good that the Alone should be alone,” for “God, be- 
ing one, is alone and unique, and like God there is nothing.”'*^ 
By this uniqueness of God he means especially that God 
alone is an uncreated creator. Thus, speaking of Moses’ 
opposition to polytheism and idolatry, he says: “This lesson 
he continually repeats, sometimes saying that God is one 
and the Father and Maker of all things, sometimes that He 

Heres 50, 146. 

Decal. 12, 52-16, 81; Spec. I, 3, 13-5, 31; 60, 331-332; Conf. 28, 144; Migr. 
12, 69; cf. above, p. 000. 

57 becal. 12, 52-16, 81; Spec. 1 , 3, 13-5, 31. 

3« Deut. 4; 39; cf. Leg. All. Ill, 26, 82. 

59 Conf. 33, 170; cf. Metaph. XII, 10, 1076a, 4; Iliad II, 204-205. 

Gen. 2: 18. 

Leg. All. II, I, I. 



is the Lord of created beings, because stability and fixity and 
lordship are by nature invested in Him alone.” ^ “Stabil- 
ity” (rd ^i^aiov) and “fixity” (ro Trayiov) are only other 
words for “eternity” (to hlZiov), in the comprehensive sense 
of being both uncreated and indestructible. Thus he also 
says that God is to be considered as “ the one, who alone is 
eternal and the Father of all things intelligible and sensi- 
ble.” God’s unity in the sense of uniqueness thus makes 
it impossible for anything else to be regarded as uncreated 
and as creative. On the basis of this conception of the unity 
of God it would be therefore impossible for Philo to accept 
Plato’s ideas as being uncreated and as also being creative by 
their own power.'*'* Third, the principle of the unity of God 
also means to Philo the self-sufficiency of God. He derives 
this from the same verse, which he now interprets to mean 
that “neither before creation was there anything with God, 
nor, when the world had come into being, does anything take 
place with Him, for there is absolutely nothing which He 
needs.” Fourth, the principle of the unity of God further- 
more means to him the simplicity of God, which, as we shall 
see, is understood by him to imply not only the incorporeal- 
ity of God but also His unknowability and indescribability. 
This, again, he derives from the same verse, to which he now 

« spec. 1, 5, 30. 

^3 VirL 39, 214. 

Cf. below, pp. 201, 221. 

Leg. AIL II, I, Q.\Opif. 6. 23; “God, with no counsellor to help Him (for who 
was there beside Him?) by His own sole will determined*' ; cf. Pirke de-Rabbi EUezer, 
ch. 3: “Before the world was created, God, in His great name, was alone,** and 
David Luria’s Be'ur^ ad loc. 

The conception of God as self-sufficient is found in Euripides, Heracles 1345; 
Xenophon, Memorabilia I, 6, 10; Menedemus in Diogenes, VI, 105; cf. J. Geffcken, 
Zwei griechische Apologeten^ p. 38. Self-sufficiency is also regarded as an attribute of 
the good by Plato {Philebus 60 c; 67 a) and as an attribute of God by Aristotle 
{Eth. Eud. VII, 12, 1244b, 5-10) ; cf. A. O. Lovejoy, Hhe Great Chain of Being (Har- 
vard University Press, 1936), pp. 42'-'43. 


gives a third interpretation. “God is alone and one alone; 
not composite; a simple nature; whereas each one of us and 
of all other created beings is made up of many things.” 

Still, this rigid conception of the unity of God did not lead 
him to such a puritanism of language as to cause him to re- 
frain from applying the term god to beings who in the com- 
mon language of non-Jews were called gods. As Scripture, 
which, despite its declaration that all other gods besides the 
God of Israel are “no gods” or “nothings,” has no ob- 
jection to applying to them the term “gods” « or “god,” 
and to calling God “God of gods and Lord of lords,” so 
also Philo, though he declares the God of Scripture to be the 
only god, stiU has no objection to the usage of the Greek 
language, common also among the Greek philosophers, of 
referring to the stars as visible gods and to the heaven as 
the great visible god,” and to saying of God that “He is 
God not only of men but also of gods.” ” This does not 
mean an attitude of “not denying the existence of lesser 
gods, but denying that they should be worshipped”; it 
only means that Philo did not deny the existence of the stars 
and the heavens and the world, and had no objection to re- 
ferring to them by their popular names as gods, any more 
than we today have any objection to calling the days of the 
week by names describing them as days dedicated to ancient 
pagan deities. 

Leg. All. IIj I, 2. See fuller discussion of this subject below, II, loo ff, 

4 ? Isa. 37: 19. 

48 Ps. 96; 5; I Chron. i6; 26. 

49 Exod. 12: 12, et passim. 

50 I Kings 11:33. 

51 Deut. 10; 17. Cf. above, p, 39. 

s* Opif. 7. 27; Spec. I, 3, 19. 

5 3 Aet. 3, 10; 5, 20; cf. Colson’s discussion in Vol. IX, pp. 1 72-173. 

54 Spec. I, 56, 307; cf. II, 29, 165: “the supreme Father of gods and men” ; Mor. 
II, 38, 206: “the Lord of gods and men”; cf. above, p. 38. 

ss Goodenough, An Introduction to Fhilo Judaeus ^ p. 108. 



This latitude in the application of the term god to objects 
worshiped by pagans as deities, which would include also the 
mentioning of the names of foreign deities, would seem at 
first sight to be contradictory to the scriptural verse “Make 
no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard 
out of thy mouth.” But this prohibition, according to Jew- 
ish traditional interpretation, does not mean that the names 
of such gods cannot be mentioned or that the term god can- 
not be applied to them. It prohibits, according to this tra- 
ditional interpretation, only the following three things: first, 
using the name of other gods as a designation of an appointed 
meeting-place; second, praising other gods; third, swearing 
by the name of other gods.®^ Now it can be shown that Philo 
was acquainted with these traditional interpretations of the 
law prohibiting mention of the name of other gods. In his 
discussion of the verse about swearing by the name of God 
falsely/* he says, “ if he who swears a wrongful oath [by the 
name of God] is guilty, how great a punishment does he de- 
serve who denies the truly existing God and honors created 
beings before their maker, and thinks fit to revere, not only 
earth or water or air or fire, the elements of the universe, or 
again the sun and moon and planets and fixed stars, or the 
whole heaven and universe, but also the works of mortal 
craftsmen, stocks and stones, which they have fashioned into 
human shape?” In support of this he quotes ^ the verse: 
“Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it 
be heard out of thy mouth,” which he reproduces from the 
Septuagint with a few slight verbal variations. From his 
quotation of this verse it is quite clear that his indictment of 

s* Exod. 23: 13. 

S’ Mekilta, Kaspa 20 [4] (F, p. loia; W, pp. lo6b-ic7a; H, p. 332; L, III, p. 180); 
Sanhedrin 63b; fos. 'Aboiah Zarah VI (VII), il. 

5 » Spec. II, 46, 252. S' Ibid., 256. 

Jbid., 255. *^Exod.’_23: 13. 



him who “honors” and “thinks fit to revere” other deities 
constitutes Philo’s own explanation of the meaning of the 
law about not making any mention of the name of other gods. 
Philo’s understanding of this law, therefore, is that it pro- 
hibits not mentioning the name of other gods but only 
honoring and revering them, thus corresponding to the first 
two traditional interpretations quoted above, namely, that 
the law prohibits honoring other gods either by using their 
name as a designation of an appointed meeting-place or by 
praising them. Furthermore, the fact that Philo links this 
verse with the verse about swearing by the name of God in- 
dicates that this verse about not mentioning the name of 
other gods is taken by him, as it is in the third traditional 
interpretation, to be a prohibition of swearing by the name 
of other gods. But Philo not only has no objection to the 
mentioning of the name of other gods, but he also finds in 
Scripture a law against cursing and reviling the gods of other 
nations. Commenting upon the verses, “Whosoever curses 
a god shall be guilty of sin,” and “Thou shalt not revile 
the gods,” he says that they refer to “the gods of the dif- 
ferent cities who are falsely so called” or to “the gods 
whom others acknowledge.” 

With this conception of the existence and unity and incor- 
poreality of God, Philo specifically rejects certain forms of 
theism identified with certain names in Greek philosophy, 
namely, the theism of Aristotle, in which God is conceived 
as an incorporeal form which from eternity existed together 
with the world as the cause of its motion; the theism of the 
Stoics, in which God was conceived as an eternal primary 

Lev. 24: 15 (LXX). 

Exod. 22; 27. 

Mos. II, 38, 205. 

Spec. 1 , 9, 53. So also Josephus, dfion. II, 33, 237; Antt. IV, 8, 10, 207. 

« Metaph. XII, 7 ff. 

176 PHILO 

fire which remained within the world even after its creation 
and the popular theism of Epicurus, in which the gods were 
conceived as eternal and happy human beings of an ethe- 
real substance inhabiting the space between the worlds.®* 
With regard to Aristotle, his view is rejected by Philo, as 
we shall see, in a passage in which he rejects the view of 
those who assume the eternity of the world on the ground 
that they postulate in God “a vast inactivity.”®’ With 
regard to the Stoics and the Epicureans, there is a passage 
in which he rejects the view of those who assign to God a 
space ‘'whether inside the world or outside it in the interval 
between worlds,” that is to say, whether the Stoic God 
who is the primary fire within the world or the Epicurean 
gods who are ethereal beings between the worlds. In this 
passage both the Stoic God and the Epicurean gods are re- 
jected on the common ground of their being in place, that 
is, of their being part of the world and hence not incor- 
poreal in the true sense of the term; but the Epicurean 
gods would also be rejected by him on account of their 
plurality. A rejection of the Stoic conception of God oc- 
curs also in many other passages. In one place, speaking of 
the Chaldeans, he rejects their belief that “the visible world 
was the only thing in existence, either being itself God or 
containing God in itself as the soul of the whole.” This 
quite evidently represents the view of the Stoics, whose God, 
that is, the primary fire within the world, is variously de- 
scribed by them either as “the whole world with all its 
parts,” ” or “the whole world and the heaven,” ’■* or “the 

*>7 Cf. Arnim, 11 , 1027. 

^ Cf. Usener, Epicurea, 359, p. 240, U, 33 ff. 

^ Qpif, a, 7~i I ; cf. below, p. 296. 

7 “ Somn, 1 , 32, 184; cf. Colson and Philos Werke, ad loc. 

Cf. below, II, 96 w Arnim, II, 258, p. 169, 1 . 14. 

7 ® Migr^ 32, 179. 74 Diogenes, VII, 148. 


mind of the world,” or “ the soul of the world.” In other 
places he speaks disapprovingly of the Chaldeans, again 
meaning the Stoics, who “taught the creed that the world 
was not God’s work, but was itself God,” or who con- 
sidered “ the world itself as absolute in its power and not as 
the work of a God absolute in His power,” or whose mind 
“ ascribed to the world powers of action which it regarded as 
causes.” The scriptural text quoted by him in rejection 
of the Stoic view that God is “ as the heaven or the world ” 
is the verse “God is not as man,” for that verse is taken by 
him to contain the general principle of the unlikeness of 
God to anything perceptible by the senses,®' which to Philo, 
as we shall see, means the principle of the incorporeality of 
God and, in a larger sense, the unity of God.®' This argu- 
ment from the imperceptibility and hence also incorporeal- 
ity of God is also raised by him against the gods of the 
Epicureans, when, in his allegorical interpretation of the 
scriptural expression “the face of God,” he says: “If the 
Existent Being has a face . . . what ground have we for re- 
jecting the impious doctrine of Epicurus?” 

The existence of God as conceived by Philo on the basis of 
Scripture is thus of a God who is one and the creator of the 
world and unlike anything within the world. While he does 
not consider the Aristotelian and the Stoic conceptions of 
God as being fully compatible with that of Scripture, he 
condemns neither of them, either as atheistic or as constitut- 
ing what Scripture terms the worship of other gods. Aristotle 
is described by him as having shown “a pious and holy 

75 Arnim, I, 157. 
7 ^ Arnim, I, 53a, 
77 Ems 20, 97. 
7 « Congr, 9, 49. 

79 Mut, 3. 16. 
Num. 23: 19. 

ImmuL 13, 62. 

** Cf. below, II, 97. 

Gen. 4: 16. 

^ Post, 1, 2. 



spirit.” Of the Stoics he speaks as admitting that “ God ” 
is the “cause ” of the creation of the world.*® Still less would 
he object to the God of Plato, who, in his Himaeus, as para- 
phrased by Philo, speaks of God “as the Father and Maker 
and Artificer, and of this world as His work and offspring.” *^ 
Only the Epicurean conception of the gods is condemned by 
him as “impious,” and is placed by him on a par with the 
animal worship of the Egyptians and the anthropomorphic 
representation of the gods in Greek mythology,** and this 
quite obviously is because the Epicurean gods were con- 
ceived as having the form of human beings. Of the three 
conceptions of God which he does not denounce as impious, 
that of Plato would, according to him, most closely approach 
the scriptural conception, for the Platonic God is one and 
the creator of the world and unlike anything within the 
world. But even the other two conceptions would be looked 
upon by him as approximating the scriptural conception to 
a large extent. The God of Aristotle is one and unlike any- 
thing within the world, and, while not enough of a creator 
to satisfy the scriptural requirement for God, He is the cause 
of that motion by which the world as a whole continues to 
be what it is and by which also all the things within the world 
come into being. The God of the Stoics is both one and a 
creator, and, while not enough unlike things within the 
world to satisfy the scriptural requirement for God, still He 
is unlike all other beings in that He is not visible to the eye. 

To Philo, then, on the basis of his conception of God, the 
God of these philosophers is not to be included among 
the gods which Scripture condemns as false. The philoso- 
AeL 3, 10. 

^ Ihid.y 8. 1 his statement is not irreconcilable with the statements quoted above 
at nn. 77J 785 and 79- To Philo the Stoic God is not a creator in the true sense of 
the term. 

*7 lUd, 15; cf. S^imaeus 37 c. 

^ Post, 1, 2. 


phers’ God is only an imperfect conception of God, which 
philosophers, in the absence of divine revelation, have at- 
tained to by reason. In other passages, speaking of non- 
Jews who have given up polytheism and idolatry, to whom 
we shall refer as '‘spiritual proselytes,'' he describes them 
as those who "practise wisdom, either in Grecian or in bar- 
barian lands,” or as those who are "wise and just and 
virtuous,” of whose existence "both Greece and the bar- 
barian world are witness.” Philo's "spiritual proselytes” 
are not only those who have acknowledged the Jewish God 
but also those who by their own reason have arrived at a 
philosophic conception of one God. It is with reference to phi- 
losophers like Plato and Aristotle and the Stoics, and with ref- 
erence also to "spiritual proselytes” in general, that Philo 
declares: "All Greeks and barbarians unanimously acknowl- 
edge” the existence of a God like that in Scripture, a God 
who is "the supreme Father of gods and men and the Ar- 
tificer {dijuiovpyos) of the whole world, whose nature, though 
not only invisible by the eye but also hard to guess by the 
mind, is yet a matter into which every student of astronomi- 
cal science and other philosophy desires to make research and 
leaves nothing untried which would help him to discern it 
and do it service.” Though the expression "Father of 
gods and men ” in this passage is reminiscent of the epithet 
invariably applied by Homer to Zeus,^^ Philo uses it here, 
as he does in other places, with reference to the God of 
Scripture. It does not refer to Zeus of Homer. Whatever 

Cf. below, II, 369 ff. 

90 Spec. II, 12, 44. 

Prohus iiy 72-74. Among them he mentions the Seven Wise Men of Greece, 
the Magi among the Persians, and the Gymnosophists in India. 

9* Spec. II, 29, 165. Colson {ad loc.) and Goodenough {Introduction to Philo 
Judaeus y p, 105) take this statement to refer to all pagans in gener^. 
w Cf. above, p. 38. 

94 Ibid, 



allusion to any Greek deity there is in this expression is to 
Plato’s Demiurge, who addresses the created gods, including 
Zeus, as follows: “Gods of gods, whose artificer (Sr/^uioupyis) I 
am and father of works.” These words of Plato, which are 
quoted by Philo elsewhere,’® are interpreted by him as mean- 
ing that Plato “speaks of the moulder of deities (SeoTrXaaTrjy) 
as father and maker (ttowjtijj') and artificer (5r]niovpydv), and 
of this world as his work and offspring.” ” 

The principle of divine providence is quite obviously di- 
rected against the Epicureans who explicitly deny provi- 
dence.’® But in the course of our discussion we shall show 
that Philo’s conception of the scriptural doctrine of provi- 
dence means something different from the providence which 
Plato and the Stoics attribute to God.” To him it means 
individual providence, the power of God to change the order 
of nature for the benefit of certain of His favored individuals. 

The principle of the creation of the world, which he insists 
upon, means to him that our present world came into being 
after it had not been, or, as he himself expresses it, “There 
was a time when it was not.” Like Plato, however, he 
takes this world of ours to have been created out of some- 
thing preexistent.”* But that something preexistent, as we 
shall show later, was conceived by him as having been itself 
created by God.™ 

These four principles, the existence of God, the unity of 
God, divine providence, and the creation of the world, are 
such as could be derived by Philo from Scripture even if he 

^imaeus 41 a. 

* Aet. 4, 13. 

’7 Ihid.y 15 . 

Cf* Zeller, III, p. 442, n. 4 {Stoics^ Epicureans and Sceptics^ p. 463, n. a). 

Cf. below, 11 , 292-294. 

DecaL 12, 58. 

Cf. below, p. 300, 

Cf. below, pp. 303 C 


had no knowledge of phOosophy. Native Jewish tradition 
had similarly formulated them as principles of religious be- 
liefs.’^'^^ Not so, however, is the case of the principles of the 
unity of the world and the existence of ideas, which Philo 
similarly names as scriptural doctrines. 

His insistence upon the unity of the world reflects his ad- 
herence to Plato and Aristotle and the Stoics and his 
opposition to many of the pre-Socratic philosophers and 
the Epicureans.^®^ Though he states that this doctrine was 
taught by Moses in his account of the creation of the world, 
he quotes no scriptural verse in support of this view. In 
native Jewish tradition, on the contrary, the view is ex- 
pressed that simultaneously with the creation of our present 
heavens and our present earth God created one hundred and 
ninety-six thousand other worlds or that Eden, which is 
beyond Paradise, contains three hundred and ten worlds.”® 

Similarly his insistence upon the existence of ideas re- 
flects his adherence to Plato and his opposition to Aristotle, 
the Stoics, and the Epicureans. While there is no definite 
statement in Scripture as to the existence of ideas, Philo 
quotes three verses in which he finds references to this 
theory: (i) the verse stating that man was made ‘‘‘after the 
image of God,’' in which he takes the term ‘Tmage of 
God” to refer to the idea of man; (a) the verse which in 

Cf. Neumark, Toledot ha-* I^^arim he-Yisra^el^ II, pp. 31-39* G. F. Moore, 
Judaism^ Index, under “God,” “Monotheism,” “Providence,” “Creation.” 

Cf. Timaeus 3a c-33 a; cf. 31 a-b. 

“S Cf. De Caeh I, 8. 

Cf. Arnim, 11 , 530-533* 

’'‘’7 Cf. Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsocratiker^ Index, under kBcixos Pradikatc. 

Cf. Usener, Epicurea^ 45, p. 9, L 4. 

Seder Rabhah dUEereshit^ 4-5, and Midrash Alphahetol^ 89. See Ginzbcrg, 
*The Legends of the Jews, 1, 1 1 ; V, 1 2, n. 30. 

Seder Gan * Eden ^ in Jellinek, Bet ka-Midrash 11 , 53; cf. Ginzberg, op, cit,, V, 
31, n. 90, and below, pp. 196 f. 

^ Gen, 1:27. 

Oplf. 6, 25. 



the Septuagint reads: ''And thou shalt make everything for 
me according to what I show thee on this mount, according 
to the pattern {irapadeiyiJLa) of the tabernacle and the pattern 
of all the vessels thereof, even so shalt thou make it” 
in which he takes "patterns” to refer to the ideas of the 
tabernacle and its vessels; (3) the verse "Show me, I pray 
Thee, Thy glory,” in which the term "glory” is taken by 
him to refer to the ideas.”^ Of these three scriptural proof- 
texts for the existence of ideas, the first and third may be dis- 
missed as attempts on his part to import into scriptural texts 
the external theory of ideas, as he does indeed interpret 
many other verses in terms of ideas. Not so, however, is the 
second proof-text, that of the preexistent idea of the taber- 
nacle and its vessels. Here Philo did not import into the 
scriptural verse something altogether new; he only combined 
an old Jewish tradition with the Platonic theory of ideas. 

According to this Jewish tradition there had been in ex- 
istence an ideal tabernacle, or, as it is usually called, sanc- 
tuary, prior to the building of the visible tabernacle in the 
wilderness; and it was that ideal tabernacle which God 
showed to Moses as a pattern for the visible tabernacle. This 
tradition is expressed in two ways. Sometimes it is said that 
the ideal sanctuary was created by God prior to the creation 
of the world.^^^ But sometimes it is said that its creation was 
only planned by God, or, more literally, came into the 
thought of God, before the creation of the world.^^^ These 
two versions both imply that there existed an idea of the 
tabernacle before the latter came into actual existence, with 

“3 Exod. 25: 9 (8) ; cf. Num. 8: 4. 

“4 ^u, in Ex. II, 52; cf. Mos. II, 15, 74; Congr. 2, 8: the archetypal pattern of the 

Exod. 33: 18. 

Spec. I, 8, 45-48. 

Pesahim 54a; Nedartm 39b; ‘fanhuma ed. Buber, Num. Naso, § 19, 

Genesis Pjihhah i, 4: be-mahashahah\ cf. Midrash Tehillim, on Ps. 93: 

a, § 3, p. 207b. 


the only difference that according to the first version this 
idea as a real incorporeal being was created by God prior to 
the creation of the world, whereas according to the second 
version this idea, before the creation of the world, was only 
a thought of God and did not come into actual existence 
until the creation of the world. This ideal sanctuary is re- 
ferred to as the ‘‘celestial sanctuary.’’ Besides the sanctu- 
ary, there were also ideal models of all its vessels, and these, 
too, were shown to Moses when he was in heaven. This 
belief in the preexistence of the tabernacle and its vessels 
is part of a more general belief in the preexistence of certain 
objects or persons or actions which were subsequently to 
play a part in scriptural history. In Talmudic literature they 
are usually said to be either six or seven in number, but, 
when all the preexistent things mentioned in the various 
lists are added up, they actually amount to the following ten: 
the Law, the throne of glory, the tabernacle, the Patriarchs, 
Israel, the name of the Messiah, repentance, paradise, hell, 
the Holy Land. The preexistence of some of these occurs 
also in the apocalyptic literature.^^ Two of these preexist- 
ent ten are also mentioned by Hellenistic Jewish writers. 
First, the preexistence of the Law is affirmed by them in their 
identification of it with that wisdom which in Scripture is 
said to have existed prior to the creation of the world.*'*'* 
Second, the preexistence of the tabernacle is stated in the 
following verse: “Thou gavest command to build a sanctuary 
in the holy mountain, and an altar in the city of Thy habita- 
tion, a copy of the holy tabernacle which Thou preparedst 

Genesis EAbhdh 55, 71 het ha-ml^dash le-ma*a!ah; Jer, Berakot IV, 5, 8c; bei 
kodesh ha^kodashim she 4 e-mdalah. Cf. fo$, Yom ha-Kippurim 111 (II), 4: ^odesh 

Exodus Rahhah 40, 2, Cf. Ginzberg, ^he Legends of the Jevss^ VI, p. 63, n. 324. 

Cf. M. Friedmann in his edition of Seder EHyaku Rabhaky ch. 31, p. 160, n. 33; 
L. Blau, Preexistence,” Jemsh Encyclopedia, X, 183. 

Cf. above, p. 22. 



beforehand from the beginning.” It is now generally recog- 
nized that this belief in the preexistence of the tabernacle was 
not introduced into Hellenistic Judaism under the influence 
of Plato’s theory of ideas; it was rather an old Semitic be- 
lief,"'* vaguely intimated in Scripture but probably pre- 
served in a more vivid form in tradition. For the Hellenistic 
Jews it was quite natural to blend such beliefs in the pre- 
existence of things with the Platonic theory of ideas. 

In Philo, besides the traditional belief in the preexistence 
of the tabernacle with its vessels, there is reference also to 
the traditional belief in the preexistence of wisdom, whence 
also of the Law, which with him, as we shall see, becomes 
blended with his own particular version of the Platonic 
theory of ideas. Wisdom is to him what he usually calls the 
Logos. It means both the totality of ideas which was created 
before the creation of the world and the Law which was 
revealed to Moses; and the revealed Law which is to govern 
the conduct of man is nothing but the Logos or wisdom 
which is both the pattern after which the world was created 
and the law by which the world is governed, for the revealed 
Law is in conformity with the law of the universe.^® There 
is no ground for the view that Philo did not believe in the 
revelation of the Law as a historical event and that to him 

Wisdom of Solomon 9:8. 

Cf. note on Wisdom of Solomon 9; 8 in Charles’s Apocrypha and Pseudepi^ 
p-apha of the Old testament, I, p. 549. Cf. also A, Harnack, History of Dogma, I, 
pp. 318-333; D. Neumark, ‘*Ha-PiIosofiah ha-Hadashah/’ Ha^Shiloah, 13 (1904), 
553 “ 55 ^; Geschichte der judischen Philosophic des Mittelalters, I, p. 22, n. i; toledot 
ha-Pilosofiah be-Yisrdel, I, p. 21, n,; and more especially in his toledot ha-Hkhctrim 
he-YisrAel, II, 1919, pp. On the belief in the preexistence of certain ce- 

lestial patterns for things on earth, such as a celestial city and a celestial temple, 
among the Babylonians, see G. Maspero, the Dawn of Cimlization, 1894, p, 610; 
A. Jeremias, Das Alte testament Im Lichte des alien Orients, 4th ed., 1930, pp. 425 ff.; 
Handhuch der altorientalischen Geisteskultury 2nd ed., 1929, pp. 108-116. 

“5 Exod. 25: 9, 40; 26: 30; 29: 8; Num. 8: 4; cf. I Chron. 28: 12, 19. 

Cf. below, II, 189 ff. 


the Mosaic Law was divine only in the sense that it was in 
conformity with the divine order of the universe."^ 

But in Philo we may perhaps also discern the suggestion 
of another one of the ten traditional preexistent things, and 
that is repentance. With regard to repentance, as with re- 
gard to the tabernacle, there are in Jewish tradition two ver- 
sions. According to one version, repentance was created 
before the creation of the world; according to another 
version, repentance came into the thought of God before the 
creation of the world,”® that is, the existence of repentance 
was only decreed by God before the creation of the world. 
Here, too, according to both versions there had existed an 
idea of repentance before it came into actual existence; but 
according to the first version it was created as a real idea be- 
fore the creation of the world, whereas according to the sec- 
ond version it was not created as a real idea until the creation 
of the world. As a particular thing and the image of that 
idea, repentance, according to the rabbis, came into existence 
with the repentance of Adam.**® So also Philo, taking re- 
pentance to have come into existence, as a particular thing, 
with Enoch, says in his comment upon the verse “Enoch 

Cf. W. Bousset, DU Religion des Judentums im neutestamentUchen Zeitalter*y 
p. ^09: “ Jeder eigentiiche Gedanke an eine Offenbaning Gottes in der Geschichte 
tritt hier 2uruck, . . . Das mosmsche Gesetz ist nur ein Spiegelbiid der ewigcn 
vcrnunftgemassen Schbpfungsordnung Gottes.” As against this, see Julius Gutt- 
mann, Die Philosophie des Judentums ^ p. 38*. “Der historische Offcnbarungsbcgriflf 
des Judentums, der in der Tora die hbchste und endgultige Verkiindung der re- 
ligidscn Wahrheit erblickt, wird von Philon so gut anerkannt wie von irgendeinem 
Taimudlehrer”; E. Schiirer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus 
Christ, II, iii, p. 366: “The Thorah of Moses is to him, as to every Jew, the supreme, 
nay the sole and absolutely decisive authority; a perfect revelation of Divine wis- 
dom. Every word written in Holy Scripture by Moses is a divine declaration.” Cf. 
above, pp. 20 If., and below, II, 189-190, 199-200. 

Tanhuma, Num. Naso, ii; Pesakim 54a; Neiarim 39b. 

Midrash TeUllim, on Ps. 93:2, § 3, p. 207b, 

*30 Pirke de-Rabhi Eliezer, ch. 20; cf. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, V, p, 114, 
n, 106. 



pleased God,” that “a little while before God appointed 
mercy and pardon to exist, now again He decrees that re- 
pentance shall exist.” Now throughout the story of crea- 
tion, according to PhOo, everything decreed by God to be 
created had been preceded by an idea of it.^^^ Consequently 
it must be assumed that there had been an idea of repentance 
prior to its coming into existence as a particular thing at the 
time of Enoch. 

With regard to the revelation of the Law, it was Philo’s 
belief that whatever is contained in the Pentateuch was writ- 
ten by Moses himself by divine inspiration, even the account 
of his own death at the end of Deuteronomy.^^'* “I am not 
unaware,” he says, “that all things written in the sacred 
books are oracles delivered through Moses,” on which ac- 
count they are assumed by him to contain “no superfluous 
word.” This agrees with the Tannaitic teaching that the 
belief in the revelation of the Law means that every verse, 
nay even every letter in it, was written by Moses himself 
by divine inspiration,^’^ though there is a question as to the 
account of his death whether it was written by Moses him- 
self or by Joshua.^’* But as to the manner of the process of 
revelation, Philo describes how, in the case of the ten com- 
mandments, in some miraculous way every word uttered by 
God reached the ear of the people.^” It may be said that he 
felt the same with regard to all the laws that were revealed 
by God through Moses, though the process, according to 

^ 3 * Gen. 5: 22. 

in Gen, I, 82. *34 Mas. II, 51, 291. 

^33 Cf. below, pp. 204, 209. ^35 Uid. II, 35, 188. 

136 Pug, 10, 54; cf. E. Schurer, A History of the Jewish People in the Times of 
Jesus Christy II, iii, p. 366, nn. 118 and 119. 

137 Sanhedrin 99a; Sifre Deut,y § 357, F, p. 149b; HF, p. 427. 

Sifre Deut,y § 357, F, p. 149b; HF, p. 427; Baba Batra 15a; cf. D. Neumark, 
Toledot hePI^^arim be-YisraUly II, pp. 44-46. 

*39 Cf. below, II, 38 ff. 


him, differed somewhat with different laws/^® More than that 
Philo does not say. If he were challenged to gi^e further in- 
formation, he would undoubtedly say as did Maimonides 
many centuries later: ‘'We believe that the w^hole Law that 
we now possess was given through Moses and that it is in its 
entirety from the mouth of God, that is to say, it has reached 
Moses in its entirety from God in a manner which is described 
in Scripture figuratively by the term ‘word/ and that no- 
body has ever known how that took place except Moses him- 
self to whom that w^ord reached.’’ 

With regard to his “hope ” of the eternity of the law, the 
use of the term “hope” does not mean that it was for Philo 
merely the expression of a wish; it was for him a belief and 
a certainty, as may be gathered from his statement that 
ultimately in the Messianic age every nation will “turn to 
honoring our laws alone.” The term hope is used here by 
Philo in the sense of firm faith in the fulfillment of a promise 
that something will happen in the future, for his belief in the 
eternity of the Law, as may be judged from the w^ording of 
his statement,^^^ jg based upon God’s promise in the verses 
“Thus saith the Lord, who giveth the sun for a light by day 
and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light 
by night ... if these ordinances depart from before Me, saith 
the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being 
a nation before Me for ever,” in which he evidently identifies 
the Law with Israel.^^^ For this use of the term hope in the 

Cf, below, II, 39 fF. 

Introduction to Commentary on M. Sanhedrin X, Principle 8. 

Mas. II, 7, 44; cf. below, II, 41 5. *<3 Mos. II, 3, I4. 

Saadia also uses these verses Qer. 31^34-35) as proof for the eternity of the 
Law, similarly identifying the Law with Israel {Emunot we-De'ot III, 7, Arabic, p. 
128, ii. 9-15). These verses are also implied in the statement about the eternity 
of the Law in Matt. 5: 18, and Luke 16: 17. The belief in the eternity of the Law 
is expressed also in the following works: The Book of Jubilees 33: J6; The Psalms 
of Solomon 10; 5; Josephus, Apion^ II, 38, 277. 



sense of faith, Philo had before him the sanction of Scripture. 
In Scripture the designation of God by the expression “ the 
hope of Israel ” and the many verses urging man to place 
his hope in God have made hope in God synonymous with 
firm faith in the fulfillment of His promise, for, as he says of 
God, “He will utter nothing at all which shall not certainly 
be performed, for His word is His deed.” In Greek phi- 
losophy the term hope had no such connotation. In Plato, 
when Socrates is made to say, with regard to a certain phase 
of his belief in immortality, “ I hope to go to good 

men,” he immediately adds, “ though I should not care to 
assert this positively.” The belief in the eternity of the 
Law was already an established principle in Judaism before 
Philo, and it is explicitly stated in Sirach.''** 

Again, like the Palestinian Jews, more particularly the 
Pharisees, Philo recognized the existence by the side of the 
laws of Moses of a body of traditions which was equally 
binding in authority. Now on this point there is a difference 
of opinion among scholars. Some scholars take the term 
unwritten law (aypa^os vSjjos) used by Philo always to refer 
to what is called in Judaism the oral law.'®” Other scholars, 
however, have tried to show that Philo’s unwritten law 
is always used in the Greek sense of the term and never re- 
fers to the Jewish oral law.*®’' Still others, while admitting 

^5 Jer. 14; 8; 17: 13. In LXX in both these places the term for hope (mp») 
is hiropavii, 

E.g. Jer. 17: 7. Here for hope (nttao) the term used in LXX is hXvk, 

Mos, I, 51, 283. 

Phaedo 63 c. 

Sirach 24; 9; i: i; cf. Psalms of Solomon 10: 5. On the belief in the eternity 
of the Law in Judaism, see Strack-Billerbeck on Matt. 5; 18 (I, 245^247); G. F. 
Moore, Judaism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927-1944), I, 

Ritter, PMk und die Halacha^ p. 14; H. L. Strack, Einleitung in ’Talmud und 
Midras^i p. 9, 

R, Hirzei, ’'Aypa^os i^6juos,” Ahhandlungen der philologUchdtistQnschen Classe 


that Philo’s unwritten law is most often used in the Greek 
sense of the term, are of the opinion that in some instances it 
has reference to the Jewish oral law.'*^ A careful examination 
of the problem has led us to support the last view. We shall 
try to present the case as it appears to our mind, advancing 
arguments, some of them already known but most of them 
new, to show that in some passages the term unwritten law 
unmistakably refers to the Jewish oral law. 

In Judaism, the exponents of the oral law are known by 
many names, among them the name of elders {zekenitn 
The contents of the oral law is sometimes described by the 
general term custom {halakah), and this is subdivided into 
various types, among them the following two: (i) enact- 
ments {takkanot) and decrees {gezerot) introduced by vari- 
ous individual scholars or groups of scholars, which have 
no basis in the Written Law; (2) interpretations of the Writ- 
ten Law by the method known as midrash, that is, investiga- 
tion into the Written Law.^*^ We shall now try to show that 
in his description of what he calls unwritten law Philo uses 
terms which are unmistakably the same as the terms used in 
the description of the Jewish oral law. 

First, there is a reference in Philo to “elders ” as exponents 
of oral Jewish traditions. In his preface to his life of Moses, 
he says that in retelling the life and teachings of Moses he 
will retell them as he has learned them “both from the 
sacred books . . . and from some of the elders of the na- 

der Koniglkh Sachsischm Geselhchajt der Wustmchajttn^ XX, i (1900), pp, 1 6-1 8, 
27; L Heinemann, mios Werke^ II, p. 289, n. i; **Die Lehrc vom ungeschricbcncn 
Gesetz im jiidischen Schrifttum,” Hebrew Union College Annual, IV (1927), 1 52-1 59; 
Goodenough, By Light, Light, p. 78, 

^ 5 * Stein, Filon ha-Akxandroni, p. 66, n. i; Klausner, Filosofim me-Eoge Ddot, 
p. 74; Ch. Tchernowitz, Toledot ha-Halakah, I, i, p. 68. 

^ L H. Weiss, Dor Dor oe’^Dorshav, 1 *, p. 159. 

^ Ibid,, p. 67. 



tion/’ for, he adds, '‘I always interwove what I was told 
with what I read.” '‘Elders,” as we have seen, is used as 
a technical term designating the exponents of the oral law in 
Palestine. Moreover, in the Mishnah there is a reference 
to "elders” who had enacted a certain law with regard to 
the Sabbatical year which was in vogue among the Jews in 
Egypt.'^^^ It is not impossible that by the "elders” in that 
Mishnah is meant not only the Palestinian "elders ” but also 
the Egyptian "elders” of whom Philo speaks.^^^ 

Second, there is also in Philo a reference to customs 
Qialakot) which have their origin in enactments {takkanot) 
and decrees {gezerot). Commenting upon the verse "Thou 
shalt not remove thy neighbor's landmarks which thy fore- 
runners have set,” he says that this injunction applies also 
to "the safeguarding of ancient customs for customs 

{eBr{) are unwritten laws, the decrees {bbyixara) of men of 
old,” and "children ought to inherit from their parents, be- 
sides their property, ancestral customs which they were 
reared in and have lived with even from the cradle, and not 
despise them because they have been handed down without 
written record”; he concludes with the statement that he 
who obeys the unwritten laws is "worthy of praise” more 
than he who obeys the written laws.^^° Now, in this pas- 
sage, we shall try to show from internal evidence, the term 
"unwritten laws” refers to the Jewish oral law. 

^55 Mos. I, I, 4; cf. Ritter, op, c%t,y p. 14, n. a; cf. Schurer, op, ciL, II, iii, p. 365, 
n. 1 17. 

The term ra \ey 6 pieya may reflect the Hebrew term Haggadot. Gfrorer (I, p. 50) 
suggests that it may refer to traditions noted down on the margins of the scriptural 

^57 iVf. Yadayim IV, 3. 

Cf, Z. Yawitz, ioUdot Yisra*el^ IV, p. 145. 

Deut. 19; I4, Philo, in his quotation of this verse, has Trp&repot, which is a 
more literal translation of the Hebrew rhhonim than the Septuagint TaTkpe$, Cf. 
below, p. 192. 

Spec, IV, a8, 149-150. 


(a) As a rule, when the term “ unwritten law ” is used by 
Philo in its original Greek sense, it means laws which ex- 
isted before the written laws of Moses were revealed, which 
laws, as he says, the “first generations ” followed with perfect 
ease,^®' as a “self-taught” law laid down by nature,'*' and of 
which, he also says, the Patriarchs and others like them were 
living symbols.'*^ In this passage, however, it is quite evi- 
dent that he does not use the term in the sense of a law 
which existed prior to the law of Moses; he uses it rather in 
the sense of laws which are still in existence by the side of 
the law's of Moses. This corresponds exactly to the Jewish 
oral law. 

(b) Of these “unwritten laws” he also says that they are 
“customs” in the sense of the “decrees of men of old.” This 
quite evidently refers to that part of the oral law which con- 
sists of customs {halakot) established by the decrees of vari- 
ous ancient authorities, known as takkanot and gezerot, and 
attributed traditionally to many Biblical personages as well 
as to personages of the post-Biblical period prior to the time 

(c) He also says of these “unwritten laws” that they are 
“ancestral customs ” which children ought not to “despise.” 
This undoubtedly reflects the verse “Hear, my son, the in- 
struction of thy father and reject not the laws of thy 
mother,” the substitution of the term “not to despise” 
inri KaTa4>pov€iv) for the term “reject not” (juij aToxx^), be- 
ing due to the influence of the verse “Hearken, my son, to 

«*' Jir. I, 5. 

IMd. 3, 16. 

**■3 Deeai* i, i; cf. 46, 276; Mos. 1, 28, 1625 Firt. 36, 194. 

Such ^a^lanoi, according to Jewish tradition, were enacted by Moses, Joshua, 
Boaz, David, Solomon, the Prophets, Ezra, the Men of the Great Synagogue, John 
Hyrcanus, the court of the Hasmoneans, the court of the priests, and Simeon ben 
She tab, who was a contemporary of Alexander Jannaeus, 

Prov. I ; 8. 



the father who begot thee, and despise not ( mi ? Karacjyphvei,) 
thy mother because she is old.” So also the rabbis find 
in this verse an exhortation for the observance of ancestral 
customs which are part of the oral law."^®’ 

(d) He furthermore says that the obedience of these “un- 
written laws ” deserves greater commendation than the obedi- 
ence of the written laws. So also the rabbis say concerning 
the oral law that “The words of the Scribes are to be appreci- 
ated more than the words of the written law.” 

(e) His interpretation of the verse “Thou shalt not re- 
move thy neighbor’s landmarks which thy forerunners have 
set ” as referring to the preservation of ancestral customs 
was undoubtedly made under the influence of the verse “re- 
move not ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set.” 
Similarly these two verses are taken by the rabbis to refer 
to the observation of ancient customs.^’^ 

(f) In another place, evidently having in mind again the 
verse “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmarks 
which thy forerunners have set,” he says that Sacred Scrip- 
ture teaches us “not to do away with any of the established 
customs which divinely empowered men greater than those 
of our time have laid down.” Note the words “greater 
than those of our time.” Similarly the rabbis speaking of 
decrees and enactments of scholars of old say that “no assem- 
bly of scholars can repeal the words of another assembly of 
scholars unless it is greater in learning and numbers.” 

Prov. 23: 22 (LXX); cf. Prov. 30: 17. 

^^7 pesahim 50b; cf. Ritter, op, cit,y p. 15, n. 2, Cf, also Shahbat a3a, on Deut. 

Jcr, Sanhedrin XI, 6, 30a; cf. Ritter, loc, cit, 

Deut. 19: 14. * 7 ® Prov. 22: 28 (27), 

* 7 * In connection with Dent, 19: 14, see responsum of Sherira Gaon in ^ur 
Hoshen Mishpat^ § 368, which probably reflects an earlier source (cf. B. Epstein, 
2orizA ST emimah^ ad loc). In connection with Prov. 22; 28, see Midrash Mishle^ ad 
loc 4 Yalhut SUm^oni II, § 960. 

*72 Mi^, 16, 89, and 90. 

*73 M, Eduyot I, 5, 


Third, besides unwritten laws in the sense of “customs 
based upon “decrees/' Philo speaks also of unwritten laws 
based upon the interpretation of the written laws. Speaking 
of the various explanations of the law of circumcision, he 
says: “These are the explanations which have come to our 
ears from the discussions of antiquities (apxawKoyovixeva) of 
divinely gifted men who have investigated {diripeipTjatav) the 
writings of Moses in no cursory manner/’ Here the 
expression “who have investigated the WTitings of Moses” 
makes it quite clear that Philo does not refer in this passage 
to “customs” based upon “the decrees of men of old” but 
rather to those interpretations of the texts by the method 
which in Hebrew is called midrash, that is, investigation 
into Scripture. An indirect allusion to the term midrash and 
the fnidrashic method of searching into Scripture may perhaps 
be discerned in his discussion of the question why Moses 
speaks only of the “lips ” of the river of Egypt and not of 
the “lips” of the Euphrates or other holy rivers.'^s He de- 
scribes questions of this kind as “investigations” 
to which, he says, some may object as “savoring of petty 
trifling” but which he himself defends on the ground that 
they are “like condiments set as seasoning to the Holy 
Scripture, for the edification of its readers.” The Greek 
^rjrrjcrLs is a literal translation of the Hebrew midrashy and 
the objection raised against this sort of investigation as well 
as the defense made on its behalf is exactly what may be said 
against and for the midrasMc method. 

"74 Spec. I, % 8. 

"7s Exod. 7: 15. is the literai meaning of both the Hebrew and the Greek 

term translated in this verse by “brink.” 

" 7 <> Philo^s observation evidendy refers only to the Pentateuch, In other parts 
of Scripture the expression “lip of the river” in Ezek. 47; 6 and Dan. 12: 5 un- 
doubtedly refers to the Euphrates, and “the lip of the Jordan” is explicidy men- 
doned in II Kings a: 13. 

"77 Somn. 11 , 45, 300-301. 



Fourth, these two elements of Palestinian oral law, deci- 
sions and interpretations, are clearly indicated by Philo in a 
passage in which, after describing the written laws, he says 
that “there are coundess other rules besides these, all that 
either rest upon (a) unwritten customs {kBuv) and usages 
(vonliioiy), or (b) are [contained] in the laws (vonots) them- 
selves.” In this passage, the expression “unwritten cus- 
toms and usages,” which, in contrast to those contained in 
the laws themselves, are not contained in the laws, quite 
evidendy refers, as in the other passages, to customs based 
upon decisions, that is, takkanot and gezerot\ for, according 
to theory, such customs and usages are not derived from the 
written laws but are new laws introduced “for the sake of the 
social order,” that is, to facilitate men’s keeping the Law, or 
to serve as a “fence around the Law,” that is, to guard the 
Law and protect it. The expression “or are [contained] in 
the laws themselves,” from the very context, cannot refer 
to other written laws contained in the Pentateuch. It refers 
to the coundess new laws that have already been derived, 
and that may still be derived, from the written laws by the 
midrashic method, which new laws, according to theory, are 
implicidy contained in the written laws themselves. 

These, then, are the eight principles which, according to 
Philo, constitute the religion of Scripture, to which every 
philosophy must accommodate itself. Of these eight princi- 
ples, five — namely, existence, unity, providence, creation, 
and revelation — have been generally accepted, though with 
some changes, by all religious philosophies throughout 
the ages, whether Jewish or Christian or Moslem. Other 
principles of belief, not mentioned by Philo, have been added 
in the course of history, such, for instance, as the belief in 

3 ^ 7 * Hypothetka 7, 6; cf. Eusebius, Praeparatio EvangeUca VIII, 7; cf. Schurer, 
op, cit,, p. 365, n. 1 14. 



the resurrection of the body in all the three religions and 
the doctrine of the Trinity in Christianity. But these five 
principles are considered as fundamental by all of them. 

With regard to the existence of God, scepticism, atheism, 
Stoicism, and Epicureanism are generally rejected by all the 
three religions. But with regard to the Aristotelian concep- 
tion of God, new interpretations of this view, as we shall see, 
made it possible for some religious philosophers to harmon- 
ize its Prime Mover with the scriptural conception of a Crea- 
tor. Similarly Philo's conception of the unity of God, in all 
its four senses enumerated above — namely, the rejection 
of polytheism, the uniqueness of God as the sole uncreated 
Creator, His self-sufficiency, and His simplicity — were gen- 
erally accepted. But with regard to the simplicity of God 
there was some discussion as to its implications. In Chris- 
tianity, with the rise of the belief in the Trinity, and in Islam, 
with the rise of the belief in attributes, attempts were made 
to interpret the simplicity of God so as to reconcile it with 
the belief in the Trinity or attributes. Discussions, too, ap- 
peared in all three religious philosophies as to how far the 
unknowability of God is to be excluded by His simplicity and 
also as to how the predicates by which God is described are 
to be interpreted. With regard to the belief in divine provi- 
dence, it was generally accepted in itsPhilonic sense, though 
it was subjected to a variety of interpretations. But what- 
ever interpretation came to be advanced, it wsls presented as 
one which would safeguard the individual character of di- 
vine providence. Creation, too, was accepted, though many 
philosophers, in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, did not 
follow Philo in his particular conception of creation. But 
whatever view about the origin of the world was advanced, 
it was always explained as representing a belief in the crea- 
tion of the world in conformity with the teaching of the Book 



of Genesis. Finally, the inspired origin of the Hebrew Scrip- 
ture came to be accepted as a common principle of Jewish, 
Christian, and Moslem philosophy, though in Islam this 
belief is somewhat modified.'^’ 

As for the three other principles which Philo presents as 
foundations of scriptural religion, namely, the eternity of 
the Law of Moses, the unity of the world, and the existence 
of ideas, they were not universally accepted by all three re- 
ligions in their philosophies. 

With regard to the eternity of the Law of Moses, both 
Christianity and Islam rejected it; they believed in the abro- 
gation of that Law. 

With regard to the unity of the world, in Christianity, 
Origen raised the question of the existence of many worlds. 
Evidently mindful of Sirach’s warning “Seek not what is 
too wonderful for thee, and search not out that which is hid 
from thee,” he declares the entire speculation on this ques- 
tion as an “unsuitable subject for human thought”; never- 
theless, he still tries to derive an affirmative answer to it 
from the New Testament verse “They are not of this world, 
even as I am not of this world,” without quoting any Old 
Testament verse in opposition to it. Similarly, in medieval 
Jewish philosophy, Saadia opposes the theory of the plural- 
ity of worlds as it appears in Greek philosophy only on the 
ground that these worlds were not conceived as having been 
created from nothing, and he differentiates this Greek phil- 
osophical view from the view expressed in the Talmudic 
statement that “God rides on His swift cherub and roams 
over eighteen thousand worlds ” by maintaining that in 
the Talmudic statement the assumption is that the many 

Cf. above, p. 158. 

Sirach 3: ai, 

*** John 17: 16. Cf. Origen, Be Principiis II, 3, 6. *Abodah Zarah 3b. 


worlds were created from nothing/^^ Crescas, in his criticism 
of Aristotle, raises the same question of the existence of 
many worlds, and, though he quotes in discouragement of 
this kind of speculation Sirach's warning as it is reechoed in 
the Tannaitic statement against inquiring into ^'what is 
above and what is below, what is before and what is be- 
hind/’ he also quotes in support of the plurality of worlds 
the same Talmudic statement with regard to God’s riding on 
His swift cherub and roaming over eighteen thousand 

With regard to the existence of ideas, Philo’s view that the 
belief in them constitutes one of the scriptural fundamentals 
of religion continued indirectly in Christianity in the doc- 
trine of the Trinity, and in Islam— with the rise, early in its 
history, of theological speculations known as Kalam — in the 
doctrine of attributes among those who maintained the ex- 
istence of real attributes. But while the Christian doctrine of 
the Trinity is a direct development, as w^e shall show, of the 
theory of ideas as revised by Philo, and while also the belief 
in attributes in Islam is a direct development of the doc- 
trine of the Trinity in Christianity and hence an indirect 
development of Philo’s theory of ideas, these problems ac- 
quired an independent status of their own, entirely distinct 
from the theory of ideas. The theory of ideas in its Platonic 
sense, ideas in the sense of patterns of things, which to Philo 

Commentaire sur k Se/er Yesim (ed. M. Lambert), Arabic, p. 5, 11 , 8 fF.; 
French, p. 19. Saadia gives also another explanation of this Talmodic statement, 
namely, it refers to eighteen thousand successive worlds. On the Jewish attitude 
toward the belief in successive worlds, see Judah ha-Lev'i, Cuzari I, 67, and Mai* 
monides, Moreh Ne^ukim II, 30, and cf, the present writer's discussion of the sub- 
ject in **The Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic Theories of Creation in Haiievi and 
Maimonides,” Essays in honour of the Very Reo» Dr, J, H* Hertz [i 94a], pp. 427-442. 

M. Hagigah 11 , i, and Hagigah 13a, where Sirach 3; 21-22 is quoted. Cf. 
Or Adonai I, ii, i, and my Creseas* Critique of Aristotle^ p. 217. 

CLOrAdonailV, 2. 



is an essential creed in scriptural religion, was not accepted 
as an essential creed of religion either in Christianity or in 
Islam or in Judaism. In all of them it was discussed as a pure 
problem of philosophy on which religion had no definite 

In his assault upon traditional philosophy, Spinoza dis- 
cusses these five out of the eight Philonic principles which 
have been acknowledged by the philosophies of the three 
religions. As for the existence of God, he indeed maintains 
that God exists and even tries to prove His existence, but 
his belief in the existence of God only means a belief in the 
principle of causality as against the Epicurean denial of it 
and his attempt to prove the existence of God is only an 
attempt to prove that the wholeness of the world, which is 
the source of its causality, transcends the mere aggregate of 
its parts. As for the unity of God, he is willing to repeat all 
the traditional statements to the effect that God is one and 
that by His unity is to be understood not only that God is 
one numerically but also that He is one in the sense of His 
being self-sufficient and simple. But he does not admit that 
the simplicity of God means also a denial of His knowability, 
in the true sense of the term knowability as he understands 
it, nor does he admit that it means also a denial of Elis 
materiality, again in the true sense of the term materiality 
as he understands it. In his refusal to deny the materiality 
of God, he departs not only from the medieval philosophers, 
but also from all the Greek philosophers, rejecting at once 
both the Platonic and Aristotelian conception of an im- 
material God and the Stoic conception of a material God 
who is immanent in the world. His own conception of God, 
as to both His nature and His relation to the world, is like 
that of the Neoplatonized Aristotelian God, except that He 

*** Cf. bciow, p» 294, 


has, in the terminology of Spinoza, both the attribute of 
thought and the attribute of extension. As for divine provi- 
dence, he does speak of it indeed, but his conception of 
providence is radically unlike that of Philo and all the re- 
ligious philosophers who followed him; it is a revival of the 
conception of providence as held by Greek philosophers. As 
for creation, he argues against the various theories of crea- 
tion as conceived by medieval philosophers. In this, how- 
ever, neither what he says against the views of others nor 
what he presents as his own view contains anything new. 
It is a modified form of the medieval Neoplatonized Aristo- 
telian conception of the origin of the world. The only 
novelty in it is that he presents it, unlike any of the medieval 
philosophers, without any attempt to reconcile it with the 
scriptural account of creation. Finally, as for revelation, 
he denies it outright, and it is this initial denial of revela- 
tion that has led him to the overthrow of all those principles 
which as formulated by Philo became the common preamble 
of faith in all the religious philosophies in Judaism, Christi- 
anity, and Islam. 


L God and the Ideas 

The starting point of Philo’s philosophy is the theory of 
ideas. This theory was with him a philosophic heritage from 
Plato and, according to his own belief, as we have seen, also 
from ludaism.' But by his time the theory of ideas had 
grown into a problem. Some, outspoken opponents of Plato 
— like Aristotle, the Stoics, and the Epicureans — openly 
denied altogether the existence of ideas as real incorporeal 
beings. Others, followers of Plato, while openly affirming the 
existence of ideas, interpreted them as thoughts of God, 
thereby practically denying their existence as real incorporeal 
beings.* Then, in the writings of Plato himself there were 
many vaguenesses and many inconsistencies with regard to 
the ideas, and these needed clearing up. Finally, many of 
Plato’s statements about the ideas seemed to be contradictory 
to what Philo considered as essential principles of scriptural 
religion, and these, he felt, would have to be rejected or else 
harmonized with Scripture. 

Philo will thus start his philosophy with a revision of 
Plato’s theory of ideas. He will be at a loss to know, as will 
have many a student of Plato after him, whether the God of 
Plato was outside the ideas or whether He was one of them, 
and, if the former, whether He and the ideas were co-eternal 
or whether He was the creator of the ideas. Plato’s own state- 

* Cf. above, pp. i8i fF. 

* Zeller, HI, 2 % p. 136, attributes this view to the Neopy thagoreans. A, Schmekel, 
Die mlttlere Stoa^ pp. 430-432, attributes it to Posidonius. Cf. M. Jones, *‘The 
Ideas as Thoughts of God,” Classical PMlology^ ai (1926), pp. 317-326. All of 
them take Philo as being of the same view. Cf. below, p. 209. 



ments on these points are either vague or inconsistent. 
Sometimes he speaks of one of the ideas, the idea of the good, 
as if it were God,’ sometimes he speaks of God as the one 
who “produces” ^ or who “made” ’ the idea of bed, and 
sometimes he speaks of the ideas in general as “ungenerated 
and indestructible”^ or as “admitting neither generation 
nor destruction.” ^ With his belief inherited from Scripture 
that from eternity God was alone * and hence that God alone 
is uncreated,’ Philo w’as unable to accept a view which would 
imply that by the side of God from eternity there were other 
uncreated beings. God from eternity was alone and anything 
else besides Him must have been brought into being by God, 
through an act of creation. In accordance with this funda- 
mental belief, he sets out to give his own version of the phi- 
losophy of Plato, and he does so partly as an interpretation 
of Plato and partly as a departure from him. 

Evidently having in mind the passages in Plato where the 
idea of the good might be taken as identical with God,*® he 
says that God is “superior to virtue, superior to knowl- 
edge, superior to the good itself and the beautiful itself.” *' 
Evidently, again, having in mind Plato’s analogy of the good 
to the sun, he substitutes God for good. In Plato the analogy 
reads that “ the good, in the intelligible region, in its relation 
to mind and the objects of mind ” is like “ the sun, in the 
visible region, in its relation to vision and the objects of 
vision” ** and that the good is “the cause of knowledge, and 
of truth in so far as known.” *’ The same analogy in Philo 
reads: “God is the archetypal model of laws: He is the sun 

3 ’Republic IL Ttq b-c. 

597 B. 

5 Ibid,^ 597 c. 

* ^imaeus §2 a; cf. 28 A, 29 a. 

’ Philebus 15 B. 

* Leg. JIL II, I, i“3; Opif^ 6, 23; cf. above, p. 171. 

’ VirL 10, 65. 

Republic II, 379 B-c. 
« Opif. 2, 8. 

Republic VI, 508 c. 

*3 Ibid.y 508 D. 



of sun, the intelligible sun of the sensible sun, and from in- 
visible fountains He supplies visible beams to that which is 
beheld.” To Philo then it is not the good which is likened 
to the sun, but God; and it is not the good which is the cause 
of knowledge and of truth, but God. Indeed Philo some- 
times calls God “ the Good ” or “ the true Good,” but 
this is not in the sense that God is the idea of good; it is only 
in the sense of a property of God, which, like all the other 
properties of God, is considered by Philo as designating the 
power or action of God.^’ 

There are only two passages in which Philo would seem 
to use the term idea in connection with God. Let us examine 
these passages. 

In one of these passages, taking as his text the verses that 
God “appeared ” unto Abraham and that Abraham “looked, 
and lo, three men stood over against him,” he says that 
God “presents to the mind which has vision the appearance 
sometimes of one, sometimes of three: of one, when the 
mind is highly purified and, passing beyond not merely the 
multiplicity of other numbers, but even the dyad which is 
next to the unit, presses on to that idea (Idiav) which is un- 
mixed and uncompounded, and by itself in need of nothing 
else whatever.” Here it would at first sight seem that God 
is called an idea. But upon a closer examination of the pas- 
sage it will be found that the term idea is not used here in 
the sense of a Platonic idea, which, according to Philo, as we 

Sj>ec. I, 5I5 279. Cf, also Fir/, 30, 164. 

« Le^. All. 1 , 14, 47. 

« Gig, 11, 45. 

^7 Cf. below, II, 126 ff. Ritter {The History of Ancient Philosophy ^ p, 430) sees 
here an inconsistency in Philo* Cf. on this apparent inconsistency also in Br6hier, 
pp. 70 and 154. According to Br^hier’s interpretation, Philo considers God as “ the 
idea of the good'* but at the same time also as ** beyond the ideas." 

Gen. 18: 1-2. 

Abr. 24, 122. 


have seen, God is not. From the very use of the terms ‘‘ap- 
peared” and he “looked, and lo” in the scriptural prooi 
text, and from Philo’s restatement of these terms by tht 
terms “presents to the mind . . . the appearance ” it is quite 
evident that the term “idea ” in this passage is used by Philc 
in the sense of a conception of the mind. Philo, we know, 
often uses the term idea in this sense.®® Accordingly, what 
Philo says in this passage is that the highly purified mind has 
an idea of God, that is, a conception of Him, as a being who 
is “unmixed, uncompounded, and by itself in need of nothing 
else whatever.” This is in accordance with Philo’s view ex- 
pressed by him elsewhere that God is absolutely simple and 
unmixed®" and that “He has no wants, He needs nothing, 
being in himself all-sufficient to himself.” The ideas, ac- 
cording to him, are not self-sufficient, for they are dependent 
upon God for their existence, nor are they, as w^e shall see, of 
the same degree of simplicity and unmixedness as God. 

In the second passage, he says that “man, the best of liv- 
ing creatures, through that higher part of his being, namely, 
the soul, is most nearly akin to heaven, the purest thing in 
all that exists, and, as most admit, also to the Father of the 
world, possessing in his mind a closer image and copy than 
anything else on earth of the everlasting and blessed idea.” 
In this passage, the expression “everlasting and blessed 
idea ” w'^ould again at first sight seem to refer to the “Fathei 
of the world,” that is, God, mentioned previously. But, in 

Cf. Leisegang, Indices, sub IBka 4. 

Immut, II, 53~55; cf. below, II, 98. 

« VifL 3, 9. 

Cf, below (II, 139 ff.) discussion about the knowabllity of the powers or th« 
ideas, from which it may be inferred that they are less simple than God. 

Cf. below, p. 279. The fact that God does not enter matter whereas the pow- 
ers or ideas do enter it shows that they are of a lesser degree of unmixedness that 

DecaL 25, 134. 



our opinion, it refers to the Logos, and the meaning of the 
passage is as follows. Man through the irrational part of his 
*‘sour* is most nearly akin to “heaven,*' because they are 
both made of the purest element, namely, fire,^^ and through 
his “mind" he is most nearly akin to the “Father of the 
world," because his mind is a closer image and copy than 
anything else on earth of the Logos, which Logos is the total- 
ity of ideas, including the idea of mind,^^ and is itself called 
“the idea of ideas." 

IL Ideas 

The superiority of God to the ideas consists, according to 
Philo, in the fact that He is their creator. Either as a de- 
liberate departure from Plato's account in the Ttimaeus or as 
an interpretation of it, Philo restates Plato’s account with a 
highly significant change. In the Timaeus the ideas are de- 
scribed as eternal ^ and ungenerated * and as not admitting 
of generation^ so that when he comes to describe how God 
created the visible world as a copy of an ideal pattern, called 
by him “ the intelligible animal," ^ he definitely says that the 
ideal pattern could not have been something created, that 
it had to be something eternal and that all that God had to 
do w^as to look at that ideal pattern and create a world in its 
likeness.® Philo, however, says that when God willed to 
create the visible w^orld, and to create it after a pattern, He 
had previously molded {Ttpo^t^erhmv) its ideal pattern, called 
by him the intelligible world. Now the term “to mold pre- 
viously" {TTpo^KrvTTQvv) uscd by Philo here in connection with 
the intelligible world, is in itself sufficient evidence that the 

^ Cf, below, pp. 313, 389, n. 32. Cf. below, p. 213. Cf. below, p. 233. 

* Timaeus 29 A. 

» Uid * 55 a; cf. 28 a; 29 a, 
3 Bid . 52 A. 

* Bid. 39 E. 
s Bid. 28 A-29 0. 


intelligible world of ideas was created by God as something 
real outside His mind. But there is corroborative evidence. 
The intelligible world is described by Philo as older 
repos) in comparison with the visible world, which he de- 
scribes as younger {veoirepov),^ This description quite obvi- 
ously reflects Plato’s description of the universal soul as not 
being younger (peoyripav) than the world but rather older 
{Tpe(T^VTepav)J Now in Plato the description of the soul and 
the world respectively as older and younger means a compari- 
son between two things both of w^hich 'were created, for the 
soul, according to Plato, was created.^ Consequently, we 
have reason to believe that Philo’s description of the intel- 
ligible world and the visible world respectively as older and 
younger also means a comparison betw^een two things each 
of which was created. The intelligible world, therefore, 
which according to Philo contains as many ‘‘intelligible ob- 
jects,” that is, ideas, as there are “objects of sense” con- 
tained in the visible world, ^ was not merely formed in God’s 
thought but was created by God and was given an existence 
of its own outside of God’s thought. So also in his homily 
on the scriptural account of the first day of creation, which 
he takes to refer to the creation of the intelligible world as a 
pattern for the corporeal world, he says that on that day God 
made {eirobfiaev) seven ideal patterns of various parts of the 
corporeal world that was to be created.^^ Here the use of the 
term “made” definitely indicates that the ideas which make 
up the intelligible world, and hence the intelligible world 
itself, were created by God and given an existence outside 
His thoughts. In another place he says that God is “the 
Father of all things intelligible and sensible,” “ Here, 

« Opif. 4, 16. 

7 34 c. 

* Ibid, 34 B ff. 

’ Opif. 4, 16. 

“ Ibid, 7, 29. 
yir$, 39, 214. 



again, not only the sensible world of things but also the in- 
telligible world of ideas is said to have God as its Father, 
that is to say, its Maker and Creator. In still another place, 
in answer to the question “why the creation of animals and 
flpng creatures is mentioned a second time, when the ac- 
count of their creation had already been given in the history 
of the six days,” “ he says: “Perhaps these things which 
were created in the six days were incorporeal beings, indi- 
cated under these symbolical expressions, being the forms 
(species) of animals and flying creatures, but now they were 
produced in reality, the images of the former, sensible copies 
of those invisible models.” The implication is that the 
ideas were created. 

** Gen. 2: 19 and i : 20, 24, 

^u. in Gen. I, 19. This passage is a comment on the second account of the 
creation of fowl and animals in Gen. 2: 19. As we have seen above (p. 119), Philo, 
following a Jewish tradition, takes all the events contained in Gen. 2-3, which come 
after the account of the six days of creation in Gen. i, to have taken place on the 
sixth day. Referring, therefore, now to the first account of the creation of fowl on 
the fifth day and of the creation of animals earlier on the sixth day, he says that 
those which were created earlier “in the six days were incorporeal beings,’' that is, 
ideas. I take the parenthetical term angeli in Aucher’s Latin translation to be a 
misunderstanding of the text. In a passage parallel to this in Leg. AIL II, 4, 11-13, 
Philo says explicitly that the first account of the creation of animals refers to the 
creation of genera {yhvri) and ideas (tSkeu). Angels, as we shall see (cf. below, 
pp. 372 ff.) belong to a class of powers to be called immanent and not to the class 
of powers which are identified by Philo with ideas. The parenthetical term creata^ 
again in the Latin translation, is, however, what is to be expected here, for, inas- 
much as the parallel statement in Leg. AIL II, 4, i^yTeadsraTaXatKaTaa-KivacOhvTa, 
we have reason to assume that the Greek original here contained, or implied, a 
similar term meaning “created.” On the basis of the same passage in Leg. AIL, the 
Greek term underlying the Latin term species here should be not eUr} but iSmi 
and, if the term here be then it should be taken in the Platonic sense as the 
equivalent of ISeat. In the parallel passage in Leg. AIL, on the other hand, it is 
quite evident from the context that the term is used in the sense of physical 
forms which are images of genera or ideas. The use of etSos in this sense is com- 
mon in Philo (see Leisegang, Indices, under tISos i). I do not think that the term 
tIws and ttSos in that passage can be taken in the Aristotelian logical sense of 
genus and species, as it is evidently done by Leisegang who puts them in his Indices, 
under tUot 2, The Armenian term underlying the Latin species in the passage in 


Scattered references to the creation of the ideas are to be 
found also in such passages, for instance, as those in which 
he says that ‘'before the particular intelligible concept [of 
the human mind] came into being, the Creator produces 
(aTToreXet) the intelligible concept itself as a generic exist- 
ence,’’ and that “before the particular objects of sense 
sprang up, the object of sense existed (ijr) by the Maker’s 
forethought as something generic.” The term aTroreXd, 
“produces,” used here by Philo in the first quotation, in 
connection with the idea of the human mind, is exactly the 
same term used by him in describing the creation of the visi- 
ble world, and consequently it is to be inferred that, ac- 
cording to him, ideas were created in the same way as sensi- 
ble objects; and consequently also the term “existed,” 
used by him in the second quotation, in connection with the 
generic idea, refers to an existence outside the mind of God. 
The same view is also implied in his description of the ideas 
as “myriads of rays” which God as the “archetypal light” 
pours forth (iKjSdXXei) or in his description of “what we 
justly call idea” as a certain splendor which God caused to 
shine forth from himself.^* In one place, after describing 
“generic virtue,” that is, the idea of virtue, as that which 
“issues forth (hcTop^veTai) out of Eden, the wisdom of God, 
and this is the Logos of God,” he explains the term “issues 
forth” by the statement that ‘in accordance with that 
[Logos or wisdom] has generic virtue been made 

The term “issues forth” thus means “has been 
made.” All this is positive evidence that the ideas in Philo 
were real objects created by God. Similarly when these 

^u. in Gen., I am informed by Professor Ralph Marcus, may stand either for 
the Greek Ukai or for the Greek eWrj, Evidently Aucher took it in the wrong sense. 

Leg. Ail I, 9 j 23. Cher. 28, 97. 

's Ibid., ic, 24. in Gen. IV, I. 

OpiJ. 4, 19. Leg. AIL 1 , 19, 65. 



terms, in the subsequent history of philosophy, are used as a 
description of the process of emanation, that which is ema- 
nated from God is also conceived as something which exists 
outside of God, having been caused by God to emanate from 
himself. But there is also corroborative evidence of a nega- 
tive kind. Never does Philo describe the ideas as ungener- 
ated. Indeed in two passages he does use the term eternal 
(aidias) in connection with the term ideaj^" but the term 
“eternal,” as we shall show later, does not necessarily mean 
“ungenerated”; nor can it have here the meaning of “eternal 
generation”; it may only mean “everlasting,” that is, inde- 
structible; or else, in the passages in question, it may refer to 
the eternity of the ideas in the mind of God before they were 
created.” When we consider the fact that in Plato the ideas 
are described as “ungenerated” ” and as not admitting of 
“generation,” the absence of any of such description of the 
ideas in Philo is to be considered as a deliberate omission, 
and this on account of his view that the ideas as real beings 
are not eternal and are not ungenerated, but are creations 
of God. This conception of the ideas as created may be con- 
sidered, however, not as a departure from Plato but rather 
as an interpretation of him, for in Plato, too, as we have seen, 
in opposition to his own statements that the ideas are eternal 
and ungenerated, there is a statement that God produces 
{ipyicaffSaiY* the idea of a bed, or that He has made (irol- 
ricreY^ that idea of the bed. In the mind of Philo, the con- 
flicting statements of Plato must have formed themselves 
into a composite view, namely, that the ideas, prior to the 
creation of the world, had two stages of existence; first, as 

DmL 215, 134 (cf. above, p. 2103, ^S) and Mui. 21, 122-123 (cf. below, 

p. 212, n. 55). 

** Cf. below, p. 222* 

*» fimMUS 52 a; cf. 28 A; 29 a. 

^ FAfMus 15 B. 

Repuhlk X, 597 B. 
597 c. 


thoughts in the mind of God, they existed from eternity; 
then, as real beings outside the mind of God, they were 
created by God; and it is in the sense of real beings, and 
hence created beings, exclusively, that he chose to use the 
term ideas in his writings, probably to counteract the com- 
mon tendency of the philosophy of his time to regard the 
Platonic ideas as mere thoughts of God.^® But even after 
their creation, according to Philo, the ideas do not cease 
to exist in the thought of God, inasmuch as God can- 
not be ignorant of their existence. Accordingly, to him, in 
the ideas there are not only two successive stages of exist- 
ence but also two simultaneous phases of existence, one in 
thought of God and the other outside the thought of God. 
As a designation of the ideas in their pre-created stage, when 
they were only thoughts of God, Philo, as we shall see, uses 
another term.^^ 

Thus the ideas, in the sense of patterns of the things which 
exist in this world of ours, have not existed from eternity as 
real beings. Moreover, even as mere thoughts of God, the 
ideas were not always patterns of the things w^hich exist in 
our world; they were conceived as such by God only w^hen 
He decided to create the world. “We must suppose,” says 
Philo, “that, when He intended to found one great city, He 
conceived beforehand the models of its parts (rots tvttovs 
and that out of these He constituted an intelligible 
world.” The meaning of this passage is quite clear: the 
ideas which are the patterns of the thing within our world, 
and simOarly also the intelligible world as a whole which 

^ Zeller interprets Philo as believing that the ideas are only thoughts of God 
(III, 2^, p. 41 1). CL above, n. 2. 

CL below, p. 223. 

Literally; "*the models thereof.*' But Colson rightly translates “the models 
of the parts," which is justified by the context, 

^ Opif, 4, 19. 



consists of the ideas and is the pattern of our world as a 
whole, were conceived in the mind of God when He deter- 
mined to create this world of ours; they did not exist in the 
mind of God before He decided to create the world. Still, 
inasmuch as the mind of God is always active, always think- 
ing, and never devoid of objects of thought, it is to be as- 
sumed that in the mind of God from eternity there had ex- 
isted an infinite variety of ideas, not patterns of things of 
our world, but rather patterns of things of an infinite variety 
of possible worlds, from among which God conceived the 
particular patterns of things which in His wisdom were the 
most suitable for this world of ours which He decided to 
create. That such an infinite number of ideas had existed 
in the mind of God from eternity, before He decided which 
of the ideas w'ere to serve as the patterns of the things of 
this world of ours to be created, we shall see in the sequel.’® 

With his conception of the ideas as created by God, and 
hence as dependent upon God for their existence, Philo de- 
parts from Plato with regard to the application of the term 
“that which really is” {ovtws oj')’' to the ideas. That term 
is reserved by him for God alone. In this he derives sup- 
port from the scriptural name of God, “I am,” which in 
the Septuagint is translated by “He that is” (6 wv), and is 
explained by Philo himself to mean that “God alone has 
veritable being.” ” Accordingly, God is invariably de- 
scribed by him as He that really is (6 oi^ra's Siv, to Svtois ovy* 
or He that truly is (n-pos &KridtLav cSv).” Similarly the term 
ousia (oixrla), which, with or without such adjectives as 
“indivisible,” “eternal,” “true,” and “real,” is used by 
Plato as a designation of the ideas,’® loses with Philo that 

Cf, below, pp. aij, 3I5“3 i6, Cf. Leisegang, Indices, sub 

^ Phaedrus 247 e. ^ Ah. 28, 143. 

^ Exod, 3: 14. ^fimaeus 35 A; 37 e; Sophist 246 b; 248 B ; 

33 Deter, 44, 160. Phaedo 78 d . 



restricted meaning, and is used by him in the Aristotelian 
meaning of essence and substance as well as in the Stoic 
meaning of matter.^^ Since God alone is a creator, he ap- 
plies to Him exclusively the Platonic terms Demiurged^ 
that is, Craftsman, Maker Planter (^vTovpyos),"^^ 

Parent (yepPTjrr^s ) Father {Tariip)^^^ and Cause (alVios).^^ 
Some of these terms, such as Father, Maker, Parent, Planter, 
are also to be found in Scripture.^'* The concept of God as 
creator of e\'crything is also expressed in his application to 
God of the terms spring {irriy’hY'^ J^nd light The use of 

these two terms as a description of God, according to Philo's 
own statements, is based upon the scriptural verses: “Me 
they forsook, a spring of life “ and “The Lord is my light 
and my saviour," though the analogy of light, or rather 
the sun, is also used by Plato as a description of the ideas. 
Sometimes, instead of calling God light, Philo describes 
Him as lightgiving ((jba'cr^opos)^'^ or the “intelligible sun," 
the latter term evidently based upon a combination of 
Plato S'* and of the scriptural verse, which in the masoretic 
Hebrew text reads “For the Lord is a sun and a shield." 

Whether Philo has put any limit upon the kinds of things 
within the \dsible world for which there are to be corres- 
ponding ideas, or whether for every kind of thing within the 
visible world there is to be a corresponding idea, cannot be 

3 ? Cf. Leisegang, Indices^ sub owta. 

Leg, All II, I, 3, f/ Spec, II, 32, 198, 

Spec, I, 5, 30. Opif. 24, 74. 

Conf. 38, 196, *<3 Somn, I, ii, 67. 

<< Deut. 32: 6 (Trar^p, kwotyjak tre), 18 (rdp yepp^craptd cc); Gen. 2: 8 {lipbTivcrev 
6 dew), 

■^5 Fug. 36, 198. Republic VI, 508 b-c; 509 b. 

So?nn. I, 13, 75. Ehr, ii, 44, 

Jer. 2; 13; cf. Fug. 36, 197. 3x yirL 30, 164; Spec. I, 51, 279. 

Ps. 27: i; cf. Somn. I, 13, 75. 52 Cf. above, p. 201. 

S 3 Ps. 84; 12; In the Septuagint, the reading is: ** Because the Lord loveth mercy 
and truth." 



known, as he inakes no statement in which anything is ex- 
plicitly excluded from having a preexistent idea correspond- 
ing to it. All his statements bearing on this subject are 
couched in positive language. From the passages quoted 
above it is evident that there are as many '‘intelligible 
objects,'^ that is, ideas, in the ideal world as there are "sensi- 
ble objects'’ in the corporeal world, and that these ideas are 
the genera of the particular objects, whether particular ob- 
jects of thought or particular objects of sense. In one place, 
he speaks of music in contrast to the musician, and of medi- 
cine in contrast to the physician, and of art in general in 
contrast to the artist, as "habits” (e^eis) in contrast to the 
individual persons in whom they exist, and each of these 
habits is described by him as "everlasting, active, perfect,” 
and as an "idea.” Now, the term "habit” in this passage 
is used by Philo, evidently after Aristotle, in the sense of 
quality (tocop),^^ that is, one of the categories of accident. 
From this it may be inferred that according to him there is 
an idea for every accident. In other places, he speaks of the 
idea of heaven, earth, air, void, water, breath, light, man,^^ 
first numbers,^® equality,^'’ and virginity,®^ and indirectly he 
also refers to the idea of virtue and the idea of repentance. 
All these are universals and correspond to particulars which 
are objects of nature. But he mentions also the idea of an 
object which is artificial, namely, the idea of the tabernacle, 
which, together with its vessels, was shown to Moses before 

5 ^ Opif, 4, l6; JUg. AiL I, 9, 23; 10, 24. Opif, 46, 334. 

^ MuL 11, 322-123. S9 102. 

^ IHd.y 121, and cf. Caieg.y 8, 8b, 25-35. ^ Heres 29, 146. 

57 Opif, 7, 29; cf. Mos, I, 22, 126 (iight). Cher, 15, 51, 

Leg, All. I, I4, 45: implied in the expression “heavenly virtue” as contrasted 
with “earthly virtue”; cf. below, II, 202. 

in Gen. I, 82: implied in his statement that “a little while before He 
appointed mercy and pardon to exist, now again He decrees that penitence shall 
exist.” Cf. above, pp. 185 f., and below, p. 257. 


it was made by Bezaleel.^'^ But this would seem to have been 
considered by him an exceptional case, and no inference can 
be drawn from it as to a general belief on his part in the ex- 
istence of ideas of artificial things. Finally, from the fact 
that he denies that God is the cause of evil,^'"^ it would seem 
that he did not believe that there were any ideas of evil and 

This conception of the kind of ideas that exist as patterns 
of things is based upon Plato, for in Plato’s writings are to 
be found statements to the effect that there are ideas cor- 
responding to every number of individuals which have ''a 
common name,” to the four elements,^' to qualities/'^ to 
artificial objects/'^ to numbers,"® to activities,"^ to relations 
such as equality,"^ and also that there are no ideas corre- 
sponding to vile and w^orthless things."^ But, departing from 
Plato’s various lists of ideas, Philo introduces two new ideas, 
namely, the idea of mind and the idea of soul. In Plato there 
is neither an idea of mind nor an idea of souL"^ Instead, ac- 
cording to him, prior to the creation of the w^orld there was a 
universal mind and a universal soul, and these upon the crea- 
tion of the world w^ere united to form a rational soul, which 
rational soul was put into the world."^ Philo, in departure 
from Plato, as we shall see,*^ does not believe that there is in 
the world a mind or a soul or the combination of the two. 
Nor does he believe that prior to the creation of the world 
there was a universal mind and a universal soul. To him 

Mos, II, 15, 74; cf. above, p. 182. Fhaedo 65 D. 

Provide (Aucher) IJ, 82, and cf. Republic X, 597 c. 

beiow, p. 273. 70 llfid, V, 479 b; Phaeio 101 c. 

^ Republic X, 596 a, Craiylus 386 

Timaeus 51 B. Republic V, 479 B. 

Parmenides 130 c. Cf. Zeller, 11 , p. 701, n. i {Pkic, p. 273, n. 126). 

7 -* This point is discussed fully in our introductory volume on Greek philosophy, 

7 S timaeus 30 b; 34 c ff. 

7 * Cf, below, pp. 326, 363 S. 



the minds and souls in the world are all individual minds and 
souls, and they were all created with the creation of the vari- 
ous living beings. But still, all created beings in the visible 
world, according to him, were preceded by the creation of 
ideas corresponding to them. Consequently, the created in- 
dividual minds and souls in the world must have been pre- 
ceded by the creation of the idea of mind and the idea of soul. 
We thus find that Philo speaks of the idea of mind (iSe'a rou 
wG) and the idea of sensation (iSea Ttjs aiad'tiaeas),'’'’ the term 
sensation being used by him here as synonymous with soul, 
for, as he says, “by the senses {alcd-qaeuv) the Creator en- 
dowed the body with a soul.” These “ideas” of “mind” 
and “sensation ” he also describes as having been completed, 
that is, created, prior to the “individual mind ” {yovs aronos) 
and “particular sensation” (atadijcris ev /t€p€^).’’ 

In his description of the creation of the ideas, as we have 
seen, Philo uses the same term that is used by Plato in his 
description of the creation of the universal soul, namely, 
that it is older than the world. Now when Plato says that 
soul is older than body and prior {irporepav) to it, he is care- 
ful to qualify these terms by adding the phrase “in birth 
{yevi(xa) and excellence (dperg).” By this he evidently 
means to emphasixe the fact that the seniority and priority 
of soul is not in point of time, inasmuch as time according 
to Plato did not exist before the creation of heaven,®' and 
without time, as says Aristotle, there cannot be any “prior” ;®“ 
the soul is prior and older than the body only in point of 
what Aristotle would call “priority in nature,” in that it is 
“better and more honorable” ®® than body and is in some 
way the “cause” *'• of body. Philo similarly tries to explain 

” £<f. All. I, 9, 21-22. *■ Ibid. 37 D. 

Opif. 48, 139. Phys. VIII, I, 2Slb, 10-12. 

■’ 1, 5 , 1. ‘5 Categ., 12, 14b, 4-j. 

*° ‘fimaeus 34 c. Ibid., 12-13. 


that the priority of the creation of the ideas to the creation 
of the world is not a temporal priority, for, following the 
generally accepted \riew that time is connected with motion, 
and believing as he did that the world and hence also motion 
were created, before the creation of the world there was no 
time and hence no temporal priority.^^' Commenting there- 
fore on the verse '‘In the beginning God made the heaven and 
the earth,” which according to his interpretation of the 
first day of creation refers to the ideas of heaven and earth/^ 
he says that this is not to be taken as a beginning "accord- 
ing to time” but rather as a beginning "according to num- 
ber,” so that the expression "in the beginning God made the 
heaven” is equivalent to "He made the heaven first.” 
By a beginning according to number and in the sense of first 
he further explains that he means first in order for 

"order,” he says, "involves number.”^" "Order,” he still 
further explains, "is the sequence (aKoXovSia) and connection 
(elpfios) of things going on before and follov^dng after,” for 
in the creation of the world, he says in effect, there had to be 
such an order, inasmuch as some things are better than 
others, and it was reasonable that the heaven should come 
into existence first, inasmuch as it is "the best of created 
things.” Now all this is only a circuitous way of restating 
the distinction made by Aristotle between "prior ” (rpSrepop) 
in the sense of priority "according to time” and other 
senses of the same term, of which he mentions the following 
four: (i) "One thing is said to be prior to another when the 
sequence (aKoXoi$7}<np) of their being cannot be reversed,” 

*5 op/. 7, 26; cf. below, p. 319. 

Op/. 7, 26. 

*7 Gen. i: I. 3, 13. 

** Cf. below, pp. 306-307. 7, 

Opi/. 7, 27. IM. 7, 2y. 

9* Ihid. 7, aS. Categ.^ 12, 14a, 27, 



aSj for example, ^one’ is prior to ^two\’’ ^^The term prior 
is used with reference to any order as, for example, ^^in 

geometry^, the elements are prior to propositions.” (3) “That 
which is better and more honorable is said to be prior by nature” 
and also (4) “that which is in any way the cause of an effect.” 
Philo’s explanation of the phrase “in the beginning” as meaning 
“beginning according to number” and in the sense of “first” 
seems to include ail these four senses of “prior” which Aristotle 
distinguishes from “prior according to time.” What he means to 
say is that the world was created according to a certain order of 
sequence and causality which was to remain permanently as its 
established law.’^ 

Having explained that the phrase '‘in the beginning’’ does 
not imply a temporal priority but rather a priority in “se- 
quence,” in “order,” and in being “better,” he says that this 
kind of beginning is applicable to the creation of the heaven 
“even if the Maker made all things simultaneously” (eee).^^ 
Now the term “simultaneous,” too, is said by Aristotle to be 
“primarily and most appropriately” applied to things which 
exist according to time,^°® and one would therefore like to 
ask how, if Philo denied that the ideas were temporally prior 
to the world, he could say that they were simultaneous with 
the world. Probably he would answer that he had used the 
term “simultaneous” in the sense in which, according to 
Aristotle, species within the same genus are said to be 
“simultaneous in nature,” for all created things, whether 
incorporeal or corporeal, can be considered as various species 
under the common genus of created things. It will be 
noticed that in Aristotle’s allusion to Plato’s account of the 
creation of soul, the original expression “God made soul in 

95 Uid.i 30-31. 

^ Jbid,^ 36, 39. W OpiJ. 7, 18. 

Ibid,, 14b, 4-5 and 12-13. Categ,, c. 13, 14b, 24-27. 

** Cf. below, p, 328. Bid., 33-34. 


birth and excellence prior to body, and elder’’ is changed 
by him to read; ‘‘The soul is simultaneous with the 
heaven/’ the term “simultaneous” being evidently used 
here by Aristotle only in the sense of a negation of priority 
in time. 

As we go on in our studies, we shall see how even before 
the creation of the world and of time a kind of timeless 
priority was conceived by some philosophers to be possible 
by the introduction, before the creation of time, of the con- 
ception of “duration” or a “supposition of time.” 

III. Powers 

Primarily the ideas are used by Philo, as they are by Plato, 
in the sense of patterns. The scriptural verse which he 
quotes as proof text for the antiquity of the theory of ideas, 
namely, the ideas of the tabernacle and its vessels, proves 
only the existence of ideas in the sense of patterns. But in 
Plato the ideas are conceived not only as patterns but also 
as causes (alrtat),^ in which sense he describes them as pos- 
sessing power Philo similarly describes the ideas, 

in that passage in which he calls them “habits,” ^ as having 
power (dvvaiJLLs) and as being active (ep€pyodv)J With this 
additional characteristic of the Platonic ideas in his mind, 
Philo tries to show that the conception of ideas as causes has 

*0® ^imaeus 34 c. 

103 Metaph* XII, 6, 1072a. 2. 

^“4 The origin of the conception of duration and the ** supposition of time” 
is traced by the present writer in the chapter “Duration, Time, and Eternity” 
in "The Philosophy of Spinoza (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1934), and in 
Crescas' Critique of Aristotle (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2929), pp. 93- 
98; 651-658. 

^ Pkaedo 95 E ff. Cf. Zeller, II, p. 687, n. i {Plaio^ p. 263, n. no), 

® Sophist 247 D-E. Cf. Zeller, II, P* 3 VPl^^o, p. 262, n. 209). 

i Cf. above, p. 212, 

4 Mut. 21, 122. 



also been anticipated in Scripture. He does this by identi- 
fying the Platonic ideas, in so far as they are causes and have 
power, with what, according to him, Scripture calls the 
powers of God. 

The passage in which Philo identifies the Platonic ideas 
with the scriptural powers of God is a homily on the verse 
in which Moses prays: “Show me, I pray Thee, Thy glory.” s 
In Philo’s paraphrase, Moses’ prayer assumes the following 
form. “I bow before Thy admonitions, that I never could 
have received the vision of the clearly manifested, but I 
beseech Thee that I may at least see the glory that surrounds 
Thee, and by Thy glory I understand the powers that keep 
guard around Thee. ... To this He (God) answers: The 
powers which thou seekest to know are discerned not by 
sight but by mind even as I, whose they are, am discerned by 
mind and not by sight. . . . You men have for your use 
seals which when brought into contact with wax or similar 
material stamp on them any number of impressions which 
they themselves are not docked in any part thereby but re- 
main as they were. Such you must conceive my powers to 
be, supplying qualities to things which have no qualities and 
shapes to things which have no shapes and yet changing or 
lessening nothing of their eternal nature. Some among you 
call them not inaptly ideas (idias), since they bring form into 
everything that is.” ^ 

In this passage, it will be noticed, three terms are equated, 
glory, powers, and ideas, and of these three terms the first 
two are said to be scriptural and only the third one is said to 
be Platonic, for it is Plato and his fbUowers to whom Philo 
refers in his statement that “some among you call them not 
inaptly ideas.” No reference is made to the fact that in 

^ Exod. 33: 18. 

* I, 8, 45-48; cf. 60, 359. 


Plato, too, the ideas are called powers. But that Philo was 
aware of Plato’s description of the ideas as having power is 
evident from the fact that he puts in the mouth of God a 
description of His powers in terms of Platonic ideas as some- 
thing already known to the readers. It will also be noticed 
that the identification of glory with powers is introduced 
by Philo through his spokesman Moses as something which 
understand.” No explanation is given by Philo of why 
Moses understood by “glory” the “powers” that stand 
around God. The fact that Philo saw no need of explaining 
why Moses understood that “glory” means the “powers” 
shows that in his mind the identification of these two terms 
needed no explanation; that it was something concerning 
which he had reason to believe that it w^as knowm to his 
readers. The reason why he believed that this identification 
was already known to his readers is the fact that glory” 
and “powers” are explicitly identified in scriptural verses 
which already at that time, in the synagogues of Alexandria, 
must have formed part of the liturgy. In these verses, the 
Psalmist exclaims: “Open wide your gates, ye chiefs . . , 
that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of 
glory ? The Lord of the Powers. He is the King of glory.” ^ 
The “Lord of Powers” here is that frequently occurring 
scriptural expression Lord of Sabaoth, which is usually trans- 
lated into English by Lord of Hosts, but which in the Septua- 
gint, in this particular verse as well as in many other verses, 
is translated by a term which literally means “the Lord of 
the powers” {Kvpios rwv 

As to who those hosts or powers are, of whom God is 
spoken of as the Lord, it is a matter of speculation among 

7 Ps. 24: 9~io (LXX). 

* Other translations in the Septuagint of the same Hebrew expression arc: 
Kvpios craPtKhdf Kvpuis xavroKparaip. 



scholars. It may sometimes mean the Lord of the hosts of 
Israel, for Scripture speaks of “The Lord of hosts mustereth 
the host of battle.” ’ It may perhaps also mean the stars, 
for the celestial bodies are called in Scripture “ the host of 
heaven.” Furthermore, it may perhaps also mean the 
angels, for angels are definitely called the hosts or powers of 
God in such verses as: “Bless the Lord, all ye his angels . . . 
Bless the Lord, all ye his hosts ” (Swaixeis).^^ “Praise him, 
all ye his angels: praise him, all ye his hosts” (Svvaixets).^^ 
Philo, however, like any exegetist of Scripture, has assumed 
the right to interpret the term “powers,” at least when it is 
identified with “glory,” as meaning the ideas.^^ 

The powers which are thus identified with the ideas are 
like the ideas spoken of by Philo as having been created by 
God. God is said to be the Father of the powers.^"* As 
created by God, they are also spoken of by him as being ex- 
ternal to God and “attending” Him as “bodyguards,” as 
coming after God,'^ as being the glory which is “around” 
God,^’ and as being “on either side of Him.” All this re- 
flects such scriptural statements as “ I saw the God of Israel 
seated on his throne and all the host (<rrpona) of heaven 
stood around him, some on the right and some on the left,” 
and “ I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and 
the house was filled with His glory; and Seraphim stood 
around Him.” According to Philo’s interpretation, we 
shall see, the term Seraphim has two meanings, one of them 

5 Isa. I3;4. ** Ps. 103:20-21. 

** Deut. 4; 19, et passim, Ps. 148: 2, 

For his interpretation of the “Lord of the powers** in the sense of the Lord of 
the angels, see below, p. 373. 

Cher, 31, 106. 

Spec, I, 8, 45; cf. Sacr, 15, 59; ImmuL 24, 109; Ahr, 24, 122. 

Posi, 48, 169. 

Spec, I, 8, 45* I Kings 22: 19. 

Ahr, 24, 121. Isa, 6: 1-2 (LXX). 



that of ''pattern '' {typus = TUTros)^ that is, idea."^ And so, 
since Scripture says that "The host of heaven stood around 
Him, some on the right and some on the left,'’ and that also 
"Seraphim stood around Him,” Philo was quite justified in 
describing the ideas or powers as "attending ” God as " body- 
guards,” as being "around” Him, and as being "on either 
side of Him.” 

But this power of acting as causes which the ideas possess 
does not, according to Philo, belong to them by their own 
nature. They derive it from God. "To act,” he says, "is 
the property of God, and this we may not ascribe to any 
created being; the property of the created is to suffer,” 
Since the power to act was bestowed upon the ideas by God, 
we must necessarily assume that before His bestowal upon 
them of that power at the time of their creation God had 
possessed it himself as a property of His own nature, and as 
a property of God it could not but have existed in Him from 
eternity. As a property of God, again, it could not be some- 
thing distinct from the essence of God: it must be identical 
with His essence."*^ The powers in the sense of a property of 
God, unlike the powers in the sense of a property of the ideas 
or the ideas themselves, are thus to be spoken of as eternal. 
But even the powers as a property of the ideas, since they 
have been bestowed upon the ideas by God, may be con- 
sidered as only an extension of the powers as a property of 
God and may therefore be treated as a part of the eternal 
powers of God. Philo, therefore, sometimes uses the term 

Be Deo, 6 ; cf. below, p. 340. 

Goodenough (By Light, Light, pp. 42-43) has found the term 5 opif 4 > 6 poc used 
in a Hermetic text (as a description of two guards one of which is the keeper and the 
other the guide of souls) and also in two magical papyri. But in Philo the term 
doruphoros in the general sense of a Body-guard or an escort or a mere satellite is 
used in connection with all sorts of things (see Lelsegang, Indices, s, t.). 

Cher, 24, 77. 

Cf. below, II, 33. 



powers in a general sense and speaks of them as being of an 
“eternal nature/'^® as being “eternal” in contrast to that 
which is “created,” as being infinite as God himself,^^ or 
as being uncircumscribed as God himself.^* All such expres- 
sions refer to the powers either in the exclusive sense of a 
property of God or both in the sense of a property of God 
and in the sense of the property of ideas, considering the 
latter as only an extension of the powers which are a property 
of God. Moreover, since the powers possessed by the ideas 
are derived from God, in whom they are eternal, Philo some- 
times refers even to the created powers, which stand around 
Him, as uncreated. He thus says: “And can you think it 
possible that your understanding should be able to grasp in 
their unmixed purity those uncreated powers, which stand 
around Him and flash forth light of surpassing splendor ?” 
In this passage there is a particular reason for calling the 
powers uncreated: it is to emphasize that they are not 
created in the same sense as corporeal things are created; 
the former are created out of matter, the latter are created 
like the emanation of a ray of light from the lightgiving 
God.’“ The term “uncreated” applied to the created pow- 
ers in this passage may therefore merely mean that they are 
not created like man; in this sense it is analogous to his 
statement about the Logos, that it is neither uncreated like 
God nor created like man. 3’ 

On the whole, we may therefore say that the ideas in Philo 
are real beings created by God. But as created beings they 
may be regarded as patterns, in which sense they are called 
ideas, or they may be regarded as causes, in which sense they 
are called powers. Now it happens that when Philo treats 

« Spec. I, 8, 47. 

^ II, I a, 65. *0 ImmuU 17, 78. 

OplJ. 6, 123. 30 Uii, 

Saar, 15, 59. 31 fjeres 4a, ao6; cf. below, p. 234, 


of them as mere patterns^ he calls them ideas, never applies 
to them the term uncreated, and describes them as having 
been conceived in the mind of God and also as having been 
created outside His mindA^ When, however, he treats of 
them as causes, he calls them powers, applies to them the 
term uncreated, and describes them as having, prior to their 
creation, existed in the mind of God from eternity. Further- 
more, during their eternal existence in the mind of God they 
were as ^'infinite’’ and as ‘‘uncircumscribed’’ as God him- 
self. By this latter statement he means that the powers or 
ideas, before their creation as real beings, to serve as a finite 
and circumscribed number of patterns of the finite and cir- 
cumscribed number of things in our finite and circumscribed 
world, existed in the mind of God as an infinite and uncir- 
cumscribed number of patterns of an infinite variety of pos- 
sible things in an infinite number of possible worlds which 
God, if He only willed, could create.^^ 

The difference between powers as a property of God and 
powers as created beings corresponds to the difference be- 
tween the two ways in which God acts upon the world, the 
direct and the indirect.^^ The term powers in the sense of a 
property of God merely means the power of God to do things 
directly in His own person; the term powers in the sense of 
created beings means the power of God to do things indirectly 
through intermediaries. According to Philo, as we shall see, 
primary goods come directly from God, whereas secondary 
goods, as well as punishments, come from God through the 
intermediacy of the powers,^^ but in certain circumstances 
even punishments come directly from God.^^ Now, in native 
Jewish tradition, God is said to deal with the world in two 

3® Cf. above, p. 208. 

33 OpiJ^ 6 , 23; Sacr, 15, 59. 
3 H Cf. above, p. 210. 

35 Cf. below, p. 269. 
3 ^ Cf. below, p. 382, 
3 " Ibid, 



ways, according to the quality of mercy or goodness and ac- 
cording to the quality of law or punishment.^^ These two 
ways of God’s dealing with the world are said to be repre- 
sented in Scripture by two names of God. According to an 
earlier Palestinian tradition, goodness is identified with the 
name Elohim and the punishment with the name Jehovah. 
According to a later Palestinian tradition, it is the reverse: 
Jehovah is identified with mercy and Elohim with law.^^ 

Reflecting this native Jewish tradition, Philo similarly 
divides the powers, both in the sense of a property of God 
and in the sense of created beings, into two classes. One of 
them is described by the term goodness (ayadoTTjs) or propi- 
tious (tXcojs) or beneficent (evepyirts) or gracious (xapt<rrc/c? 7 ) 
or creative (7roi7?n/c??); the other is described by the term 
authority (i^ovaia) or sovereignty (iipxv) or governing 
{ipXiKr}) or legislative {vopoBeriKii) or regal (fiacnXtKTj) or puni- 
tive {KoXacTTrjpLosy /coXao’rtK^).'^® Like the native Jewish tra- 
dition, he finds this twofold classification of the divine powers 
represented in Scripture by the two names for God, Lord 
{kvplos) and God (deos), which in the Septuagint translate 
respectively the Hebrew Jehovah and Elohim; and, like the 
older version of the Palestinian tradition, he identifies the 

38 Jer, Ita'anit II, i, 65b; Genesis Rabbah 12, 15; Mekilta^ Pisha, 16, F., p. 19b; 
W., p. 24a; L., I, p. 237; Berakot 4Sh, 

Cf. A. Marmorstein, ^he Old Rabbinic Doctrine of God^ 1927, pp. 43 fF.; idem, 
Philo and the Names of God,’* Jemsh ^arterly Review, N.S. 22 (1931-32), 295- 
306; L. Finkeistein, “Recent Progress in Jewish Theology,” Jewish Quarterly Re^ 
view, N.S. 20 (1929-30), 362-363; R. Marcus, “Recent Literature on Philo,” Jewish 
Studies in Memory of George A, Kohut, 1935, PP* 477“”47^» ^* Stein, PHon ha- 
Akxandroni, 1937, p. 58, n. 3. 

Cf. Cher* 9, 27-28 (i): Goodness, identified with creation, and (2) authority; 
Sam 15, 59: (i) sovereignty and (2) goodness; Heres 34, 166; (i) gracious and (2) 
punitive; Abr* 25, 1:24-125: (i) beneficent and (2) governing or regal; in Ex, II, 
68, Harris, Fragments, p. 67: (i) creative and (2) regal, from which come respec- 
tively (l) propitious or beneficent and (2) legislative or punitive; Fug, 18, 95: (i) 
creative, (2) regal, (3) propitious, (4) iegisktive, subdivided into (a) command and 
(b) prohibition, Cf. Sit^ried, p. 213; Drummond, 11, pp, 83-85. 


power of goodness with Elohim, or God, and the punitive 
power with Jehovah, or the Lord/' But inasmuch as he uses 
the term powers both in the sense of ideas and in the sense 
of a property of God, he expresses himself in his various 
classifications of these powers in two ways. On the one hand, 
referring to powers in the sense of ideas, he speaks of these 
two classes of powers as something distinct from God.^' 
But on the other hand, referring to the powers as a property 
of God, he speaks of God himself as being gracious,"'^ or 
good,'*'* or a creator, -*5 or a king,-'^ or a sovereign,''^ or a law- 

In the native Jewish original of this Philonic classification 
of the powers, the term “powers” is not used. The term 
used there instead is one which literally means “measures” 
and derivatively means also “rules” and “standards.”'*’ 
A reflection of this original Palestinian term may be dis- 
cerned also in Philo. In one passage he gives his twofold 
classification of the powers in the form of a comment upon 
the verse “Hasten and knead three measures (jierpa) of fine 
meal.” He then adds the explanation that each of God’s 
powers “measures all things” and that “His goodness is the 
measure (pirpov) of things good. His authority is the measure 
of things in subjection, and the Ruler himself is the measure 
of all things corporeal and incorporeal, on which account 
the powers assume also the functions of rules (Kavovuv) and 
standards (japainrypaTcav) and measure what lies within 

Plant, lOy 86; Jh-, 25, 124. The translation of Jehovah by kOplos reflects the 
traditional Jewish substitution of Adonai for Jehovah. 

Br6hier (pp, 144-151) tries to find parallels for this distinction in Stoicism. 
Goodenough (By Lights Lights pp. 42 fF.) tries to find its parallels in the Hermetic 
literature. ) 5 a(rtXg&s. Cher, 29, 99. 

Cher, 9, 27-28; Fug, 18, 94-96. &pxo!v, Ihid, 24, 83. 

« rXews. Leg, All, III, 61, 174. ^ vopoekTTjs, Fug, 13, 66. 

<4 hya$ 6 s. Ihid, I, I4, 47. Middot, 

voiriT-^s, Spec, I, 5? 3 ^* Gent. 18:6. 



their province.” One can readily admit that there is an 
allusion in this passage to Plato’s statement that “in our 
eyes God will be the measure of all things,” in opposition 
to Protagoras’ view that man is the measure of all things.** 
But still — in view of the fact that what Philo calls here 
“powers” and describes as “rules” and “standards” and as 
“measuring” is called in native Jewish tradition by a term 
which means “measures,” “rules,” and “standards” — it is 
not unreasonable to assume that the two classes of “pow- 
ers” in Philo and the two classes of “measures” in native 
Jewish tradition are somehow connected and, if neither of 
them is dependent upon the other, they may reflect a com- 
mon tradition.*** 

IV. The Intelligible World and the Logos 

We thus have in Philo two terms, ideas and powers, ex- 
pressing two aspects of the Platonic ideas — one their aspect 
as mere patterns of things and the other their aspect as causes 
of things. With regard to the term ideas, Philo uses it ex- 
clusively as a description of the patterns created by God 
when He decided to create our world; and hence he never 
applies to ideas the term uncreated. W’ith regard to the term 
powers, however, Philo uses it both as a description of the 
eternal powers which are a property of God and as a descrip- 
tion of the powers which were created by God when He de- 
cided to create our world; and hence he speaks of powers also 
as uncreated. But sometimes Philo treats of the ideas, and 
also of the powers, as a totality, no longer as the patterns or 
causes of individual things in our world but as the pattern 

“ Sacr. I£, 59. 

^ Laws IV, 716 a 

Post, n, 35; Somn. II, a9, 193* Cf, Leisegang’s note in Philos Werke on Post. 
II, 35, and Colson's note on Post, ii, 36, and on Somn. II, 29, 193. 

^ C£ above, p, 91, 


or the cause of the world as a whole. When treated as such, 
they are given by Philo two new names, intelligible world and 
Logos. Let us, then, study these two new names. 

The treatment of the ideas as a totality under one name is 
already found in Plato, in passages w^herein he refers to the 
ideal pattern of the world as a whole as the intelligible ani- 
mal {porirdp itaovY or the animal that truly is (jd d tan 
in contrast to the physical world wLich he describes as a 
‘'visible animal” (taw oparop); ^ and under this intelligible 
animal he includes four ideas of the four types of iivdng be- 
ings in the world, to which he refers as the intelligible animals 
(poTjrd But the expression intelligible world (Koapos 

poriros) which Philo gives to the totality of ideas is not known 
to have been used before him.^ Plato, indeed, uses the ex- 
pressions “intelligible place” (potjtos tSttosY and “super- 
celestial place” (vTrepovp&vios tottosY as a description of the 
place of the ideas, but these two expressions do not exactly 
mean the same as Philo’s “intelligible world,” for by the 
former Plato means the astronomical heaven * and by the 
latter he means, according to our interpretation, an infinite 
void outside the world.’ Philo’s “intelligible w’orld” is 

* fimaeus 39 E. Cf, J. Horovitz, Untersuckungen uber Phiions und Platons 
Lehre con der Weltschopjung^ 1900, pp. 1-103. 

* Ibid, » Ibid, 30 D. 

< Ibid, 3c c; cf. below, p. 307. 

s Philo is taken to be the first to have used the term intclhgibie world. Cf. Br^- 
liier, Pktin: Enniades II (1934), p. 58, n. i; P. Shorey, Plato: The Republic (Cam- 
bridge: Harvard University Press, the I^b Classical Library, J930-1935), VII, 
517 c, Vol. il (1935), p. 13c, n. a. The expression kImshos dcruTizaros in Phikhus 64 B 
docs not mean the ‘‘incorporeal world” of the ideas, but rather the “incorporeal 
order” which exists in living bodies in the physical world, the term Kotr^xm having 
there the meaning aiXbyos (cf. R. G. Buiy^’s note in his edition). 

® Republic VI, 509 d; VII, 517 b. 

7 Phaedrus 047 c. 

* Cf. L. Robin, La Theorie platonicienne de Pamour, pp. 83-84; R. Arnou, Le 
DSsirde dieu dans ia pkilosophie de Phsin^ p. 48, n. r, P. Shorey, he. cit, 

» Cf. below, p. 34 u 



neither of these.’" The term intelligible world was probably- 
coined by Philo himself. This intelligible world is defined by 
him as a “commonwealth (s-oXireta) of imperishable and in- 
corporeal ideas,” ” or as a world which “consists {<yvvearTS>ra.) 
of ideas ” ” or “of invisible ideas,” or as a world which was 
framed (eTrayrj) from “incorporeal and paradigmatic ideas.” 
As the individual ideas are the patterns of the individual 
things in the world, so the intelligible world is the archetype 
of this phenomenal world or the pattern of this visible 
world.’® Again, as in the case of the ideas of which the in- 
telligible world is constituted so also in the case of the intel- 
ligible world, it is always spoken of as something created by 
God. We have already quoted Philo’s use of the expressions 
“He first fully formed” and “elder” in connection with the 
intelligible world as a whole.” The intelligible world, like 
the ideas of which it consists, is a pattern of this world which 
was conceived and created by God when He willed to create 
this world. It had no existence prior to that. As in the case 
of ideas, Philo never refers to it as uncreated. Like the ideas, 
as a pattern of this world of ours, the intelligible world had 
no eternal existence even in the mind of God; it was con- 
ceived by God only when He decided to create the world. 

The term “intelligible” in the expression “intelligible 
world ” would seem to have been used by Philo in two senses. 

In one sense, it would seem to have been used by him as 
the equivalent of the terms “incorporeal” and “invisible,” 
which terms are used by him in the expression “incorporeal 
ideas” or “invisible” ideas. “Intelligible” in this sense is 
the opposite of “sensible,” and accordingly it means some- 
thing which can be conceived only by the human mind, as 

Cf. below, p. 245. M Mos. 11 , 25, 127. 

Gig. 13, 61. IS Con/. 34, 172. 

” Opif. 4, 17; cf. 5, 20; Somn. 1 , 32, 186. Opif. 4, 16. 

Con/. 34, 172. II Cf. above, p. 205. 


opposed to that which can also be perceived by the senses. 
That this is one of the meanings of the term as used by Philo 
is quite evident from his use of the expression "‘intelligible 
world’' as the opposite of "‘visible world” or “sensible 
world.” Taken in this sense only, the “intelligible world” 
merely means a world which, because of its incorporeality, 
can be apprehended only by the human mind. 

But the term “intelligible world ” w^ould seem to have been 
used by Philo also in another sense. Not only is it something 
that can be apprehended only by the human mind, but it is 
something which, irrespective of the possibility of its being 
apprehended by the human mind, exists as an object of 
thought of some kind of mind. For the existence of the in- 
telligible world, according to Philo, does not depend upon the 
fact that it can be thought of by the human mind; to him, 
it had existence even before the human mind was created. 
But still, even before the human mind was created, it had 
existence not only as an incorporeal world but also as an 
intelligible world, that is, as an object of thought of some 
mind. What, then, is that mind of which, even before the 
human mind was created, the intelligible world was an ob- 
ject of thought? 

What that mind is and how it is related to the intelligible 
world may be gathered from Philo's description of the crea- 
tion of the intelligible world. 

When God had decided to create the world, he says, “He 
thought out beforehand” the ideas, and out of 

these ideas “He constituted the intelligible wwld.” The 
intelligible wwld, like the ideas of which it consists, was thus 
“thought out” by God, which implies that it was an object 
of God's thought. His votirbvy and the result of His act of 

** Opif, 4, 16. 

Mos, 11, 25, 127. 

« Optf, 4, 19. 



thinking, His vorjcis. But when there is an ''object of 
thought'* and an "act of thinking,*’ we know from Aristotle, 
there must be also a mind, a povsy which does the thinking, 
though in the case of God, who in this case does the think- 
ing, these three are all identicaL^"^ The intelligible world, 
therefore, before its creation, was the object of thought of 
the act of thinking of God's mind. Now of the three terms 
which we should expect here — j^oOs, vorjaiSy and vor^rov — the 
third is directly mentioned by Philo in the expression koctixos 
porjToSy the second is implied in the verb ipevorjarey but as for 
the first, roOj, he does not use that term at all, but in its stead 
uses the term Logos (Xo^os), which occurs in his statement 
that " the world consisting of the ideas could have no other 
place (rdrov) than the Logos of God which ordered them,” 
"Logos” in this passage quite clearly stands for "mind.” 
That Philo uses here the term Logos as a substitute for 
Aristotle's term mind (yovs) is also evidenced by the fact that 
his statement here about the Logos, that it is the place of 
the intelligible world and ideas, is itself based upon a state- 
ment by Aristotle that the thinking {vor^riKT}) soul, that is, 
mind, "is a place (tottop) of forms (eiSw).” 

Logos, then, is Philo’s substitute for the term Nous. For 
this use of the term Logos as a substitute for the term Nous, 
Philo had ample justification. In Plato it is correlated with 
the term knowledge ^nd thought (6tama), and is 

ascribed to God as a characterization of the intelligence with 
which He created the sun, the moon, and the five other plan- 
ets, and by which the creative processes in nature in animal 
and plant life and even in the formation of lifeless substances 
are continued.*^ In Aristotle, it is often used as a designa- 

" Metaph, XII, 7, 1072b, 18-22; 9, 1075a, 3-5. 

« Opif. 5, 20. 

J)e j^ntma III, 4, 429a, 27-28. 

*4 fimaeus 38 c; Sophist 265 c. 


tion of the rational faculty and hence as the equivalent of 
Nous.®^ In the Stoics, too, it is used as a designation of the 
rational faculty and hence as the equivalent of Nous/^ and 
accordingly, just as they speak of God as the Nous of the 
world or the Psyche of the world, so they also speak of him 
as the Logos of the world.'"' Philo, therefore, had good justi- 
fication for the use of the term Logos as the equivalent of 
the term Nous, though why he should have substituted it 
for Nous is a question which we shall try to answer later. 

It is the mind of God, renamed Logos, in wdiich the ideas and 
the intelligible world consisting of the ideas were conceived 
and of which they are an object of thought. Inasmuch as 
God is absolute simplicity, His mind and His thinking and 
the objects of His thought are all one and indentical with His 
essence. The Logos, therefore, as the mind of God and as 
the place of the ideas from eternity, starts on its career as 
something identical wdth the essence of God. 

The ideas, how^ever, as w^e have already seen, do not re- 
main in the mind or the Logos of God. By an act of creation 
they acquire an existence as created beings outside the mind 
of God. When they are created and sent forth to an exist- 
ence outside the mind of God, according to Philo, they are not 
allowed to fly loose in a disorderly fashion. They are com- 
pacted into a world, and that world, again, is not allowed to 
exist as a bare, compacted group of ideas without something 
to encase it. The world compacted of ideas is an intelligible 
world, that is, a wwld w^hich continues to be the object of 
thought of a mind, but no longer a mind which is in God and 
identical with His essence, but a mind created by God, es- 
pecially created by Him to serve as an encasement of the 

*5 Cf. Bonitz, Index JristQleiicus^ sub III. 

Sec Index to Arnim, sub 'khr^ot (ratio) and wDs. 

Cf. below, p. 253, n. 2. 

»* Cf. below, p. 253. 



intelligible world and the ideas which constitute that in- 
telligible world. Now, since Philo has chosen to call the mind 
of God in which the ideas and the intelligible world were con- 
ceived by the name of Logos, he continues to use that name 
also for the mind which God has created as the encasement 
of the created ideas and the created intelligible world. The 
Logos, therefore, which started its career as the mind of God 
or as the thinking powder of God, and hence as identical with 
the essence of God, now enters upon a second stage of its 
existence, as an incorporeal mind created by God, having ex- 
istence outside of God’s essence, and containing within itself 
the intelligible world and the myriads of ideas of which the 
latter consists. 

The Logos, then, is the mind of which the intelligible 
world and the ideas which constitute the intelligible world 
are the objects of thought. But mind and its object of 
thought are identical not only in the case of God but, to 
some degree, also whenever the knowledge of the mind is 
actual; for, as says Aristotle, “actual knowledge is identical 
with the thing known.” Accordingly, mind or the Logos, 
w’hose knowledge of the thing known by it is actual, must be 
identical with the intelligible world or the ideas which con- 
stitute the intelligible world, though, of course, not to the 
same extent to which the mind of God was identical with 
the ideas ere the latter were created. It is in this sense that 
Philo says of the Logos that it is “the rich and manifold 
union of myriad ideas.” In one place, he says that God 
“stamped the entire world with an image and idea 
namely, His own Logos.” Here the term idea, with which 
the term Logos is synonymous, is evidently used collectively 
in the sense of the totality of ideas. The conception of the 

=» De Jnma III, 7, 431a, 

3 * Somn, II, 6, 45. 


Logos as the totality of ideas, and hence its description by 
the term idea, is also brought out by him in his statement 
that the idea of man, which was created by God prior to the 
creation of the perceptible man and of which the latter is an 
image {siniilitudo)^ is itself “the form {forma) of the princi- 
pal character,” which form he describes as “the Logos of 
God, the first principle, the archetypal idea, the first measure 
of the universe.” It is evidently in this collective sense of 
the totality of the ideas that the Logos is also called by him 
the idea of ideas (iSea an expression based, as we shall 

show, upon Aristotle’s description of mind as the form of 
forms (ftSos In another place, he says that “the 

human mind” was shaped “in conformity with the archety- 
pal idea (iSiav), namely, the most sublime Logos.” Here 
Logos is evidently used in the sense of the idea of mind.^® It 
is in this sense that he speaks of the Logos in its relation to 
the individual human mind as the archetype (dpx«'ri'7ros) or 
pattern (irapaSet-ypa) of the latter, and of the latter as the 
copy (jilurina.) of the former.” Later we shall show that he 
uses the term Logos also in the sense of the idea of virtue. 

The created incorporeal Logos outside of God, w’hich 
started on its career as an uncreated Logos in God, continues 
to possess one of the essential characteristics of the source 
from which it is derived. It is not only a mind capable of 
thinking; it is also a mind always in the act of thinking. Just 
as the uncreated Logos in God is a power like all the powers of 
God, the act of God’s thinking. His virQixK no less than His 

3* in Gen, I, 4. 

w Migr, 18, 103; OpiJ, 6, 25; cf. below, p. 247. 

« De Anima III, 8, 432a, 2. 

3s Spec, III, 36, 2C7. 

^ CL above, p* 213. 

37 Heres 48, 230; 233; cf. Opif, 23, 69; Spec, III, 36, 207, and below, p. 425. 
3 * Cf, Somn, II, 36, 242-243, and below, p* 261; II, 202. 



toOs, so also the created incorporeal Logos is a power, and it 
encases the ideas not only in the sense of patterns but also 
in the sense of powers. Accordingly, in his description of the 
created incorporeal divine Logos, Philo also says that it is 
that “which God himself completely filled with incorporeal 

It is because the Logos is conceived by Philo as both the 
totality of ideas and the totality of powers that sometimes, 
as in the case of the ideas, he describes it as created. The 
Logos is thus spoken of as the eldest and most generic of cre- 
ated things,''® as “older than all things which were the objects 
of creation,” as not being uncreated as God, though not 
created as human beings,'"' as being the first-born son of 
God,'"’ the man of God,'*'* the image of God,''® second to God,'*® 
a second God,''" and as being called a god by those who have 
an imperfect knowledge of the real God.''* An implication 
that the Logos is created is contained also in a passage where 
he says that “being the Logos of the Eternal (diSiov) it is of 
necessity also itself incorruptible {a4>8apros).” Here, we 
take it, he uses the term “incorruptible” as distinguished 
from “eternal ” deliberately, in order to show that while God 
is “eternal,” in the sense of being both ungenerated and in- 
corruptible, the Logos is only “incorruptible” but not un- 
generated. In another place, too, he deliberately describes 
the Logos, or as he calls it there “the right Logos,” merely as 
“not corruptible” (ov 4>SapT6s), and from this non-corrupti- 
bility of the Logos he deduces that a statute which is law is 
alwj'w,®® a term w'hich should be translated here not by 

Sofn?i. I, II, 62. Con/. 28, 147, et alia. 

Leg. All, III, 61, 175. Leg. AIL II, 21, 86. 

Migr. I, 6. -<7 ^u. in Gen. II, 62: secundus deus. 

Heres 42, 206. -*8 Leg, M. Ill, 73, 207; cf. Somn. I, 39, 229- 

Ap^. 12, 51, et alia. 230; 41, 238-239. 

** Conf. II, 41; cf. 14, 62; 28, 146, Con/. 11, 41. 35 > ^ 4 ^* 


“eternal,” as it is usually done,=' but rather by “everlasting,” 
for previously he has used as an equivalent of it the term 
“deathless” {adavarov),^^ that is, something which has a be- 
ginning but has no endA® In all these passages, the Logos is 
spoken of, directly or indirectly, as being created. In two 
passages, however, he directly uses the expressions “the 
eternal Logos” (6 dt'Stos Xd 7 os)®'* and “the eternal iaioms) 
image, the most holy Logos.” Eternal as a description of 
the Logos is also implied in the expression “eternal and 
blessed idea,” which, as we have suggested, refers to the 
Logos.” In all these passages, in which the Logos is spoken 
of as eternal, the term eternal is not used in the sense of un- 
created. It is used either in the sense of indestructible, or, as 
we have suggested above in the case of the powers, in the 
sense of its including the two stages of the existence of the 
Logos taken together. Whether the term eternal here is used 
in the sense of “eternal generation” is a question which we 
shall discuss later.®* But unlike the term powers, which is 
sometimes used by Philo exclusively in the sense of a prop- 
erty of God, the term Logos is never used by him exclu- 
sively in that sense, except in those statements in which it 
refers figuratively to God’s activity of speaking — as, for 
instance, the statement that “God then speaks (XaXei) in 
unmixed unities, for His Logos is not a sonant impact of 
voice upon air, or mixed with anything else at all, but it is 

So Latin translation; Drummond, II, 193; Colson; Adler in PhiiGS PVerke, 
Yonge correctly; everlasting. 

ss Ehr. 35, 141. 

S 3 One must not, however, assume that Philo uses the terms ai6ws and aUhpws 
rigidly in the sense of eternal and everlasting respectively. In P/ani. 2, 8, God is 
described as whereas the Logos is described as dlStos. 

P/an/. 5, 18. 

ss Conf. 28, 147. In this passage the reading may be not “eternar* but rather 
“ invisible ** (^i.d^s). CL PUknis Opera^ ed. Wendland, ad. he. 

Becal 25, 134. CL above, p. aoj. s* CL below, p. 312. 

236 PHILO 

unbodied and unclothed and in no way different from 
unity,” or in the statements that “His Logos is His deed ” 
and “Whatever God says is not words (pij/xara) but 

deeds.” In all these statements, the term Logos, whether 
expressed or understood, is used as a figurative way of de- 
scribing the property of God to act. 

With his use of the term Logos not only in the sense of the 
totality of ideas but also in the sense of the totality of pow- 
ers, we should expect him also to say that the Logos is the 
totality of those contrasting powers of goodness and au- 
thority, or propitiousness and legislativeness, in which all 
the powers are classified by him. Now Philo does not actu- 
ally say that, but he expresses himself to the same effect in 
different words. In his comment on the verse “And He 
posted the Cherubim and the .flaming sword,” he explains 
that the Cherubim and the flaming sword symbolize respec- 
tively the powers of goodness and authority, adding that the 
Logos is in the midst between these two powers, for it had 
the effect of “reuniting” them, and through it “God is both 
ruler and good.” Similarly, in his comment on the verse 
“I will speak to thee from above the mercy seat in the midst 
of the two Cherubim,” the two Cherubim are interpreted 
as symbolizing the creative and the regal powers,'®* and the 
expressions “from above” and “in the midst” are taken to 
refer to the Logos, who is described as being “above all 
these” or “the charioteer of the powers” or “in the mid- 

ImmuL 19, 87. Similar other examples are to be found in the passages in Leise- 
gang, Indices y under 'k6yo$ III, i, 

^ Sacr, 18, 65; Mos, I, 51, 283, 

DecaL ii, 47, 

Gen, 3: 24, 

Cher, 9, 27-28; cf. ^u, in Gen, 1 , 57, where the flaming sword is taken to sym- 
bolize the heaven or the sun; cf. below, pp. 337 ff. 

^ Exod.25: 22(21). 

Fu^. 19, 100; in Ex, 11 , 68; Hanis, Fragments y p, 66. 

^ Fug, 19, loi. 


die” (fisffos, in medioY" or "the source (t^vyV} fons) from 
which the creative and regal powers divide themselves off.” 
All this is merely a figurative w'ay of describing the logical 
relation of the Logos, as the totality of powers, to the chief 
two powers which are contained within it. It is only another 
way of restating the view which he has expressed elsewhere 
in his statements that the Logos is “the rich and manifold 
union of myriad ideas,” or that it is the “idea of ideas,” 
or that it is that “which God himself has completely filled 
throughout with incorporeal powers.” Neither the state- 
ment that the Logos is the “ source ” of the creative and regal 
powers nor the statement that “from these two powers 
others grow out ” is to be taken literally as indicating a 
theory of “descending emanations.” ” The terras “source,” 
“divide themselves off,” and “grow out” are only figurativ'e 
terms expressing the logical relations of whole to part or the 
prior to the posterior. It is for this reason that in another 
place all these pow'ers are figuratively described as “colo- 
nies” of the “mother-city” which is the Logos, and are 
arranged among themselves according to the order of logical 
priority.^'* .All these various descriptions of the Logos in its 
relation to the powders merely mean that, as the totality of 
the pow'ers, the Logos combines within itself the two op- 
posite groups into w^hich the powers are divided and as such 
acts as their harmonizer and mediator — a role W’hich Philo 

in Ex, 11 , 68; Harris, Fragments^ p, 66; cf. De Deo 5; “Dcsuper autem did- 
tur loqui, qm in medio est, quia Ens per verbum omnia cxarnavit.’* In Heres 34, 
166, he who is said to be “standing a^vc and in the midst of them*' refers to the 
Logos; not to "God himself" as translated by Colson. 

^u, in Ex, 11 , 68; Harris, Fragments, p. 67. 

Sacr, 25, 83; cf, above, p. 232. 

7 ® Migr, 18, 103; Opif. 6, 25; cf. above, p. 233. 

7 ^ Somn, I, II, 62; cf. above, p. 234. 

7 » in Ex, II, 68; Harris, Fragments, p. 67, 

73 Cf. Goodenough, By Light, Light, p. 27. 

7^ Fug, 18, 95. 



elsewhere explicitly assigns to the Logos and which will be 
dealt with more fully later in our chapter on the immanent 

His conception of the Logos, and of the ideas which are 
contained in the Logos, as created by God has led Philo to 
revise the meaning of the Platonic term image (dKuv). In 
Plato the term image is used exclusively with reference to 
things in the visible world; ideas are not images, they are 
patterns (irapaddyixara).'^ In Philo, indeed, the term image 
is still applied to things in the visible world,’'® and ideas as 
well as the Logos are still described by the term pattern as 
well as by the term archetype {^px^Tviros),’’’’ but, unlike Plato, 
Philo describes the ideas as well as the Logos also by the 
term image.’* God alone, according to him, is to be de- 
scribed only by the terms pattern and archetype and 
never by the term image. The ideas as well as the Logos are 
indeed patterns or archetypes with reference to things in the 
visible world which are modeled after them, but they are 
only images with reference to God who has created them. 
This double aspect of the ideas and Logos is clearly brought 
out in his homily on the meaning of the name Bezalel and 
on the verse about the creation of man after the image of 
God. The word Bezalel, he says, means “in the shadow of 
God”; and by “shadow” is meant the Logos which “is the 
archetype for further creations, for just as God is the pattern 
of the image, to which the title shadow has just been given, 
even so the image becomes the pattern of other things, as 
the prophet made clear at the very outset of the Law-giving 
by saying, ‘And God made man after the image of God,’ *“ 

^ CL Timams 28 0-29 c. 

Opif. 6, 25; Plant, 12, 50; Ehr, 33, 132-133. 

^7 Ebr. 33, I33j et alia. This term is not used by Plato. 

Leg, AIL 1 , 13, 33; 13, 42; 16, 53; III, 31, 96; Somn, 11 , 6, 45. 

Deter. 24, 87; Spec, I, 51, 279. See Leisegang, Indices^ s, v, *0 Gen, x : 27. 


implying that the image had been made such as representing 
God, but that the man was made after the image when it 
had acquired the force of a pattern/' But in order to dif- 
ferentiate between the two usages of the term image, he 
sometimes speaks of image when applied to the ideas as the 
“incorporeal” image and of image when applied to cor- 
poreal objects as “visible” or “sensible” image. This 
double use of the term image, as we shall see, reappears in 
the writings of the Church Fathers, as w^hen, for instance, 
Origen speaks of “certain images {imagines") which the 
Greeks call ideas (I5eas).” The term “image” is used here 
by Origen in the sense of “invisible image” {mago intisi- 
bilisY^ and in the Philonic sense. 

Our interpretation of Philo that his Logos, as well as his 
powers, has two stages of existence prior to the creation of 
the sensible world, one from eternity as a property of God 
and the other as something created by God, differs from the 
interpretations hitherto advanced of Philo. The common 
opinion among students of Philo is that the Logos, as well as 
the powers and the ideas and the intelligible wwld, prior to 
the creation of the sensible w^orld existed only in the mind of 
God/^ This common interpretation seems to be based upon 
the assumption that, inasmuch as the prevailing interpreta- 
tion of Plato at the time of Philo was that the ideas were 
only thoughts of God, Philo could not have believed other- 
wise. But it overlooks the fact that the belief in the ex- 
istence of ideas as real beings does appear later in history, 

Le^. AH, III, 31, 96; Heres 48, 230-231; Opig 6, 25, 

Somn, I, I4, 79. 

Opif, 51, 146. 

Ebr. 33, 132; 34, 134. 

Be Principtis 11 , 3, 6. 

Ibid, I, 2, 6. 

Dahne, I, 208-12; 259; Gfrdrer, 1 , 176; 179; Heinze^ Die Lehre nm i>|‘ci,255; 
Zeller, III 2^, p. 41 1; Drummond, II, p. 174; Brehier, p. i <4. 



and there is no reason, therefore, to assume that Philo could 
not have held such a view. That Philo did actually hold 
such a view has been shown by us on the basis of the texts 
examined. In anticipation of our discussion in a subsequent 
chapter, we may also add here that besides the two stages 
in the existence of the antemundane Logos and powers there 
is still a third stage, and that is their existence, after the 
creation of the world, as immanent in the world. 

V. Relations between God, the Logos, and the Ideas 

In our analysis of Philo we have found that the relation 
of God to the Logos is that of the Creator to the created, 
that the relation of the Logos to the intelligible world is that 
of mind, an actually thinking mind, to its object of thought, 
and that the relation of the intelligible world to the ideas is 
that of the whole to the parts of which it consists. We shall 
now take up a certain number of passages in which Philo 
discusses these relations of God to the Logos, of the Logos to 
the intelligible world, and of the intelligible world to the 
ideas, and shall try to present them in the form of a connected 

In such a connected argument the starting point is a pas- 
sage in which Philo expresses his disapproval of the assump- 
tion that the intelligible world exists in place. “To speak of 
or conceive that world which consists of ideas as being in 
some place (toww nvi) is illegitimate.” ^ On the face of it, 
this statement would seem to be only a repercussion of 
Plato’s complaint that because of our “dreaming state” we 
think that “all which exists,” including the ideas, “must be 
in some place (tivI rbiru) and filling some space ” * and a re- 
affirmation of Plato’s statement with regard to the idea of 
beauty that it is “never anywhere ( oii 5 ^ tov) in anything 

* Opif, 4, 17. a Timaeus 5a b-c. 


else,” ^ a statement on the basis of which Aristotle generalizes 
that Plato s ideas are “nowhere” {nfiSe irov)^ or that they are 
“not in place” (ok iv tottc^).^ However, the emphatic man- 
ner of Philo s statement here has in it the decided ring of a 
challenge rather than the acquiescence of an agreement. 
Philo seems to challenge here some one who, while believing 
in the existence of ideas, holds that the ideas exist in some 
place. Now it happens that Plato himself, wnth all his ex- 
plicit denial that the ideas exist in place, speaks of them as 
existing in a “supercelestial place” {vnepovpavm toms).* 
What he means by this “supercelestial place” he does not 
explain. Our own interpretation of it is that he means by 
it a supercelestial void which, according to him, as also ac- 
cording to some of his predecessors, surrounded the world.’' 
If this interpretation of Plato is correct, then Philo’s chal- 
lenge here is aimed at Plato, who believed that there was a 
void outside the world, which void he calls supercelestial 
place, and that the ideas existed in that supercelestial place. 

No argument is advanced by Philo here against the view 
that the intelligible world of ideas exists “in some place”; 
he only presents his own view in opposition to it. But, if we 
are right in our assumption that the expression “in some 
place ” here refers to a void outside the world, then his argu- 
ment against it is to be found in his repeated rejection of the 
existence of such a void * and in the arguments he advanced 
against it.** Indeed in none of the four places w’here he dis- 
cusses the void outside the world is the belief in its existence 

3 Symposium 211 a , 

* Phys. Ill, 4, 103a, 9. 

s Ihid, IV, a, ii09b, 34. 

^ Phafdrus 247 c. 

7 This interpretation is discussed fuily in our introductory i^okme on Greek 

« Pianh 2, 7; Eeres 47, 228; Aet 16, 78; 19, 102. 

^ Plant. 2, 7-8. On the source of these arguments see Br^hicr, p. 86. 



attributed to Plato, and in three of these places it is either 
directly or indirectly attributed to the Stoics." But the 
attribution of the belief in a void outside the world to the 
Stoics, and not to Plato, does not mean that he did not 
understand Plato to believe in the existence of such a void 
any more than it does not mean that he did not know that 
the Pythagoreans and the Atomists also held such a view. 
It only means that Philo is following his general custom of 
attributing to the Stoics ancient views which were only re- 
vived by them, but which by his time were associated with 
their name. Certain it is, however, that it is this “super- 
celestial place ” of Plato that Philo had in mind in his refer- 
ence to the illegitimacy of speaking of the ideas as existing 
“in some place,” and, if he did not believe that Plato’s super- 
celestial place referred to a void, he must have certainly felt 
that these terms lent themselves to such an interpretation; 
and perhaps there were some people at his time who did 
actually interpret them that way. It is such a possible or 
actual interpretation of Plato’s statements that the ideas 
have their location in the “supercelestial place” that he had 
in mind when he said that “ to speak of or conceive the world 
which consists of ideas as being in some place is illegitimate.” 

If the intelligible world of ideas does not exist in a void 
outside the physical world, where, then, and how does it 
exist ? To answer this question Philo resorts to an analogy, 
which, in the rather extended form it is presented, sounds 
like the parables of the rabbis and Jesus. One has only to 
add at its beginning the words “I shall tell you a parable: 
what is it like unto ? It is like unto a king who was about to 
found a city,” or the words “the creation of the world is like 

** In AeL 16, 78; 19, loa, it is directly attributed to the Stoics. la Herts 47, 228, 
it is identified mth the belief in a general confiagrationj which Philo usually treats 
as a Stoic belief. 


unto a king who founded a city,” to make it read like a 
parable in the Midrash or in the New Testament. 

If a king founds a city, says Philo, his purpose is, as a rule, 
to satisfy his soaring ambition and to add fresh luster to his 
good fortune. Again, a king, as a rule, cannot build a city 
by himself; he must make use of the services of some skilled 
architect. The architect, on receiving the commission from 
the king, sets about first to devise a plan for the city to be 
founded. He studies the site upon which the city is to be 
founded and in accordance with the conditions of the cli- 
mate and the terrain he sketches mentally the various parts 
of that city. Out of these mental sketches of the various 
parts of the city he then forms, again mentally, a general 
image of the city as a whole. This image he carries in his 
“soul ” as the impression of a seal is carried in wax. Philo is 
careful not to mention that the architect makes a diagram 
of his plan, for that would destroy the purpose of his par- 
able.*’ The architect carries his plan, Philo repeats twice, in 
his “soul,” that is, in his rational soul or mind. Finally, “by 
the innate power of memory he recalls the various parts of 
the city . . . and like a good craftsman he begins to build 
the city of stones and timber.” “ 

Compared with this, the creation of the intelligible as well 
as of the visible w’orld by God has many similarities, but also 
many dissimilarities, both of which are brought out by Philo 
in his account of God’s creation of the intelligible as well as 
of the visible world. Unlike the king in the parable who is 

” A similar parable in the Midrash reads: “ According to the custom of the world, 
when a mortal king builds a palace he does not build it bv his own skill but with the 
skill of an architect, and that architect does not build it out of his own head, but 
employs plans and diagrams to know how to arrange the chambers and the wicket 
doors'* {Genah Rak^ah I, i). It is to be noted that in the Midrash the use of ** plans 
and diagrams’* by the architect is mentioned. 

« Opif. 4, 17-18; 5, '20. 



in need of a skilled architect to plan and build the city for 
him, God in the creation of the world was “with no counsellor 
to help Him.” Then, again, unlike the king in the parable, 
God did not create the world in order to satisfy some soaring 
ambition of His or to add fresh luster to His good fortune. 
The creation of the world was a mere expression of his good- 
ness, for “ God, guided by His own sole will, determined that 
it was meet to confer rich and unrestricted benefits upon that 
nature which apart from divine bounty could obtain of itself 
no good thing.” Like the architect in the parable who 
devises an ideal plan of the city in accordance with the re- 
quirements of the condition of the site on which the city is 
to be built, God plans the world for the benefit of those who 
are to inhabit it “in proportion to the capacities of the re- 
cipients.” Again, like the architect in the parable, who 
sketches first plans of the individual parts of the city and out 
of these forms a plan of the city as a whole, God, in planning 
the creation of the world, “conceived beforehand the models 
of its parts out of which He constituted the intelligible 
world ” as a whole.^® Then, also, just as the plan of the city 
devised by the architect in the parable “ held no place in the 
outer world, but had been engraved in the soul of the artificer 
as by a seal,” so also the plan of the world devised by God 
had no other place than “the divine Logos,” a term which, 
as we have seen, is used by Philo in the sense of rational soul 
or mind.** Finally, like the architect in the parable, God, 
“using the intelligible world as a pattern, brought to com- 
pletion the world visible to the senses.” ” There is, however, 
one fundamental difference between the ideal city in the soul 

*3 Ihid, 6, 23. 
*4 Bid. 

« Bid. 

^ Bid. 4, 19. 

Ibid. 4, 18; 20. 

** Ibid. 5, 20. 

Cf. above, p. 230. 
” Opif. 4, 19- 


of the architect and the intelligible world in the Logos w'hich 
Philo does not bring out in this analog}' but is brought out 
by him, as we have shown, in many other passages. In the 
case of the architect, neither his soul nor the ideal city which 
is in the soul has an existence outside the body of the archi- 
tect. In the case of God, however, the Logos or the mind of 
God, after the intelligible world is formed in it, is created by 
God as a real being outside the essence of God,“' and as a real 
being, a Logos or a pure mind, it contains within itself as 
object of its thought the intelligible world which in its turn 
consists of the ideas. 

The upshot of this analogy is that the intelligible world 
consisting of ideas does not exist in “place,” that is, in a 
void, for “the world consisting of ideas w'ould have no other 
place than the divine Logos.” “ In other words, the Logos 
is the place of the intelligible world as well as of the ideas of 
which the intelligible world consists. .Accordingly, in his 
comment upon the verses “He came to the place of which 
God had told him” and “He lighted upon the place,” 
Philo takes the term “place” to refer, by way of allegorizing 
(aWrtyop&v),^^ to the Logos; and the reason why the Logos 
is called place, he adds, is that the Logos is that “which God 
himself has completely filled throughout with incorporeal 

The exact meaning of the relation of the Logos to the in- 
telligible world or the ideas, by which Philo has justified him- 
self in speaking of the Logos figuratively as pilace, is to be 
found in Aristotle, upon whom Philo must have undoubt- 
edly drawn for the use of this expression.^® Aristotle, refer- 

Cf. above, p. 232. « Somfj. I, 1 1, 67. 

Opif. 5, 20. ^ Uid. I, II, 66; n, 68; 19, 117* 

Gen. 22: 3, *7 IMd, I, ii, 62. 

Gen, 28: II. Cf. above, p. 233. 



ring to such a Platonic expression as that the ideas may be 
only in our souls (iv i^uxats),” says: “Therefore it has been 
well said that the soul,” that is, the thinking (vorjTu^) soul 
or mind, “ is a place (roirov) of forms,” which he himself 
subsequently explains as meaning nothing more than that 
“the forms are in the soul,” or that “the faculties of the 
soul are identical with the forms,” or that the mind (vovs) 
is the “form of forms” (etSos eiSS)v).^^ All these statements 
with regard to the identity of the mind with the intelligible 
object are further qualified by the statements that it is only 
when “the objects are immaterial” that “that which thinks 
and that which is thought are identical,” that it is only 
“actual knowledge” which “is identical with the thing 
known,” and that it is only when the mind “thinks” that 
it is “actually” something,^^ that is to say, having actual 
knowledge and being identical with the thing thought or 

This is exactly what Philo means by his statement that the 
Logos is the place of the intelligible world and with it also 
of the incorporeal ideas of which it is constituted. The in- 
telligible world is the content of the Logos, just as in Aristotle 
the forms are the content of the mind. And just as in Aris- 
totle the mind, when it is in the actual operation of thought, 
is identical with the intelligible object, so also in Philo “the 
intelligible world is nothing else than the Logos of God when 
already engaged in the act of creation.” This is also the 
meaning of his description of the Logos as “the rich and 
manifold union of myriad ideas,” or that “which God 

” Parmenides 232 B. Sec Hkks on De Anima^ 429a, 27, in his edition. 

De An* 4, 429a, 27-28. 

^ Bid. in, 8, 431b, 29-4323, i; cf. II, 4, 417b, 23-24. 

Uid,y 431b, 28. Uid.^ 19-20. 

33 Bid*^ 429a, 24. 

3 ^ Bid, III, 4, 430a, 3-4. 37 Opif^ Sy 24. 

3 * Sacr* 25, 83, 


himself has completely filled throughout with incorporeal 
powers.” The Aristotelian background of all this is quite 
clearly evident, as we have pointed out above, in his de- 
scription of the Logos as the ‘'idea of ideas” (Bia 
which corresponds exactly to Aristotle’s description of mind 
as the “form of forms” (eUos d5ccp)J^ 

But the Logos, as we have seen, did not remain within God, 
but was given by God, through an act of creation, an exist- 
ence of its own. With that created Logos, God is, therefore, 
not identical, and cannot be said to be the place of that 
Logos in the same wmy as the Logos is said to be the place of 
the intelligible world. Accordingly, Philo maintains that 
God is “prior” (irp^) to place and Logos,^* using the term 
“prior” (rpo) here, of course, not in the temporal sense but 
rather in one of the senses which, according to Aristotle, the 
term prior (tp6t€pop) has, namely, as a description of the re- 
lation of cause to effect/^ 

But by the time of Philo the term “place” as an appella- 
tion of God, the origin of which has been variously explained, 
must have already been in common usage in Palestinian 
Judaism. As interpreted in later Jewish sources, it meant 
that “ God is the place of the world, but His world is not His 
place,” that is to say, God is everywhere in the corporeal 
world, thereby exercising His individual providence, but He 
is no part of the corporeal world and is unlike anything in 
it. In Greek philosophy, the use of the term “place” as an 
appellation of God does not occur, but a suggestion for the 
use of it does occur, and that suggestion may have been 
made perhaps before the time of Philo. According to Sextus 

« Somn. I, II, 62. 

Migr. 18, 103; Opt/. 6, 25, according to some readings; cf. Cohn ct Wcndland, 
FMlonis AUxandrini Opera^ ad kc. 

De Anima III, 8, 432a, 2, 

4* Somn. I, 19, 1 17; cf. I, II, 65. 

« C&teg. 12, 14b, 4 S.i cf. above, p. 214. 



Empiricus, the Sceptics, in their arguments against the 
Peripatetics, tried to force the latter to admit that God was 
to be considered by them as the place of the world. The 
argument is as follows. According to Aristotle, “ the heaven ” 
is not in any place, because “no body contains it.” Again, 
according to Aristotle, all men agree in “ allotting the highest 
place to the deity,” that highest place being called “ether.” 
From these two statements, the Sceptics argue, it must fol- 
low that God is “the limit of the heaven” and “since heav- 
en’s limit is the place of all things within heaven, God — 
according to Aristotle — will be the place of all things but 
this, they conclude, “is itself a thing contrary to sense.” 

In view of all this, Philo could not remain satisfied with the 
mere statement that God is "prior to place and Logos.” 
He wanted to reaffirm the Jewish application of the term 
place to God, but, in order to safeguard it against misunder- 
standing, he wanted also to explain what to his mind was its 
real meaning. 

And so we shall now try to show how Philo continues to 
argue that, while God cannot be described as the place of the 
created Logos in the sense of His being identical with it, 
there are other senses in which God can be described as the 
place of the created Logos as well as the place of all other 
created things. “The term place,” says Philo, “has a three- 
fold meaning; firstly, that of a space filled by a body; sec- 
ondly, that of the divine Logos.” In neither of these two 

** Sextos, Adversus Physicos II, 3i“34, referring to Aristotle, Phys, IV, 5, 21 ab, 
8-9; De Caelo I, 3, 270b, 6-7 and 22 (cf. J, A. Fabricius, in note to his edition of 
Sextus Empiricus, II, 1841, pp. 681-^82; J. Freudenthal, ‘^Alexander Polyhistor” 
in his Hellenist ische Studlen^ 1-2, 1875, p. 72, referring also to Proclus, Timaeus 
I17D). For the Palestinian Jewish use of this divine appellation, see M. Yoma 
VIII, 9, For the native Jewish explanation of it, see Genesis Rabbak 68, 9. This 
Palestinian Jewish use of the term has been taken to have either a Phiionic or a 
Persian origin, but it is undoubtedly of native Jewish origin (cf. A. Marmorstein, 
The Old Rabbink Doctrine oj God^ 1 , 1927, pp. 92-~93). ^ Somn* I, ii, 62, 


meanings, of course, can God be called place. '‘There is, 
however, a third signification in keeping with which God 
himself is called a place, by reason j of His containing 
things, and being contained by nothing whatever, and (2) of 
His being that to which all things flee for refuge, and {3) be- 
cause He is himself the space of himself, for He is that which 
He himself has occupied.’’ The first two of these three 
reasons for calling God place is given by him also in his com- 
ment on the verse "I will give thee a place to which he who 
has slain a man [unintentionally ] shall flee.” “For here,” 
says Philo, “he uses the word place, not of space entirely 
filled by a body, but figuratively of God himself, since (i ) He 
contains (Tr^fyUxoip) and is not contained, and because (2) He 
is the refuge for the whole universe.” The third and first 
of these three reasons are given by him also in the following 
passage: “God is His own place, and He himself is full 
{ 7 r\rjp 7 }s) of himself, and He himself is sufficient for himself, 
filling and containing all other things in their destitution and 
barrenness and emptiness, but himself contained by noth- 
ing else, seeing that He is himself one and the w^hole.” 

No\v the three reasons given by Philo in these passages as 
to why God should figuratively be called place reflect three 
characteristic descriptions of place found in Greek philoso- 
phy. In Aristotle, three of the five essential characteristics 
which he assumes to belong to place read that “place is 
what contains (Trepuxov) that of which it is the place and is 
no part of the thing . . . and is separable from it.” Again, 
in Aristotle, the goals toward which things in the world 
move naturally and in which they rest naturally are called 
the proper places (roTrot okcZbt) of those things, which 

Ihid.^ 63. Leg. AIL I, 14, 44. 

Exod. 21: 13 (LXX). Phys. IV, 4, 210b, 34-21 la, 3. 

Fug. 14,75. Z)<rGi<r/c>I,8,276a,io-i2;?i^:^x.VIII,3,253b,33-34, 



view is expressed by him in the statement that each of the 
elements '‘naturally tends to be borne towards its own place 
(xojpa?/)/' Finally, in the Stoics, place is defined as that 
"which is possessed (exoixepop) by a body’^ or that "which 
is occupied imrexiii^^vov) by an existent thing/^ 

Evidently with these characteristics of place in his mind, 
Philo tries to show how God can be called place figuratively. 
For, argues he, if with Aristotle one considers that the es- 
sential characteristic of place is that it is "what contains’' 
(wepLexov) and is not "what is contained,” then God is to be 
called place figuratively, inasmuch as He contains all things 
and Is contained by nothing whatever. If, again, with Aris- 
totle one says that the proper place of a thing is that toward 
which it is naturally moved and in which it naturally rests, 
then God is also to be called place figuratively, inasmuch 
as He is that to which all things flee for refuge. Finally, if 
with the Stoics one says that place is a space possessed or oc- 
cupied by a body, then God is also to be called place figura- 
tively, inasmuch as He himself occupies himself or is full of 
himself. The main contention of all this is that if God is 
to be called the place of the world in a figurative sense, it is 
not in the sense that God is identical with anything in the 
world or with the world as a whole. God can be called figura- . 
tively the place of the world only in the sense that He is that 
which contains and not that which is contained, that He is 
different from the world, that He is the cause and creator of 
the world. And it is in this sense that in his comment on the 
verse which in the Septuagint reads "Didst thou not call 
upon me as thy house, thy father, and the husband of thy 
virginity?” he says: "Thus he implies clearly that God is 

s* De Gen, et Cmr, II, 8, 335a, ao-ai; cf. nys. IV, 5, aiab, 29-30 (T<Siroj^). 

Aedus, ?lacim I, 20, i (Arnim, II, 504). 

^ Sextus, Jdversus Physicos II, 3 (Arnim, 11 , 505). ss Jer. 3: 4. 


a house, the incorporeal space (x“pa) of incorporeal ideas, 
that He is the father of all things, for He begat them, and 
the husband of wisdom, dropping the seed of happiness for 
the race of mortals into good and virgin soil.” In this 
passage God is called “ the incorporeal space of the incor- 
poreal ideas ” not in the same sense in which the Logos is 
called “the place of the intelligible world,” namely, in the 
sense of His being identical with the ideas, but rather in the 
sense of His not being part of them and of His being separ- 
able from them. 

And so the relation of God to the Logos is described by the 
term “prior,” that is to say, a relation of cause to eitect; the 
relation of the Logos to the intelligible world is described by 
the term “place” in the same sense as soul or mind is said 
to be the place of forms, that is, in the sense of their being 
identical, and the relation of the intelligible world to the 
ideas is described as that of a whole to the parts of which 
it is composed (crvvetrTus).^'’ 

But in the writings of Philo we may discern another 
method of describing the relation of God to the Logos and 
the relation of the Logos to the ideas. In one passage, 
speaking of God and the Logos, he says that “the most 
generic (yeviKbirarov) is God, and next to Him is the Logos 
of God, but all other things have an existence only in word, 
but in deed they are at times equivalent to that which has no 
existence.” In another passage, speaking of the Logos in 
its relation to all other things, he says that “ the Logos of 
God is above all the world, and is eldest and most generic 
(7«nKt!)TaTos) of created things.” In a third passage, speak- 
ing of the ideas in their relation to particular things, he says 
that “before the particular intelligible thing comes into be- 

s" Leg. AIL II, II. 86. 
s» Leg. AIL III, 61, 175; Deter. 31, 118. 

s* Cher, I4, 49. 

Opif, 4, 17; cf. also 19. 



ing, the creator produces the intelligible thing itself [i.e. the 
idea] as a generic (yevLKdv) being.” In these three passages, 
then, God is the “most generic” absolutely; the Logos is the 
“most generic of created things”; and the idea is simply 
“generic.” The use of the term genus in various degrees of 
comparison, we take it, was advisedly chosen by Philo. He 
wanted to describe the relation of God to the Logos and of 
the Logos to the ideas as a relation of the more universal to 
the less universal. Each idea is only “generic”; the Logos 
which is the totality of ideas is “most generic” of all the 
ideas which constitute it; and God is “most generic” ab- 
solutely; there is nothing more generic than He. In these 
three passages the term generic is used by him in three dis- 
tinct, though not unrelated, senses. The ideas are described 
by him as generic in the sense that a genus is “the compre- 
hension in one of a number of inseparable objects of thought, 
as, e.g., animal, for this includes particular animals.” The 
Logos is described by him as the most generic of created be- 
ings in the sense that it is the most generic of all the generic 
ideas which are contained in it as parts in a whole, for these 
generic ideas in their relation to the Logos which contains 
them is like that of species to a genus, inasmuch as, accord- 
ing to Aristotle, the relation of species to genus is like that 
of parts to the whole. God is described by him as the ab- 
solutely most generic in the sense that He is the uncaused 
cause of all things, for, being the cause of all things, He is 
their genus, inasmuch as the universal or genus, according 
to Aristotle, reveals the cause,®’ and, being himself uncaused. 
He is the most generic of all things. 

Leg. All. 1 , 9, 23. 

Diogenes, VII, 60. 

MetapL V, a5, loajb, 24-25, 

Anal Fosu I, 31, 88a, 5-6; II, 2, 90a, 30. 

VI. Logos and Wisdom 


We have seen, then, that the term Logos is used by Philo 
in the sense of Nous,^ both as the mind of God which is 
identical with His essence and as a created mind which 
is distinct from His essence, and that its use in that sense is 
justifiable by certain precedents. That he should have pre- 
ferred the term Logos to the term Nous as a description of 
this incorporeal mind is not due, as it is generally assumed, 
to the Stoic influence. In the first place, the Stoics never use 
the term Logos in the sense of an incorporeal being and as the 
totality of the ideas; they use it only in the sense of im- 
manent principle in the world, like a soul or mind. In the 
second place, the use of the term Logos by the Stoics has been 
too much exaggerated; they more often use the expression 
“soul of the world” or “mind of the world” than the term 
“Logos.” * If Philo had a predilection for the Stoics and 
wanted to follow them, he would have used the term “soul ” 
or “mind ” as the equivalent of the term “Logos,” and more 
often than the term Logos. Mere imitation of Stoic vocabu- 
lary would thus not explain his substitution of the term Logos 
for mind in the sense of the divine mind or in the sense of an 
incorporeal mind created by God. The reason for his pref- 
erence for that term is, to our view, simple enough and un- 
derstandable enough. He wanted to have a special term 
to designate the divine mind, or the incorporeal mind created 
by God, in order to distinguish it from the human mind, and 
therefore he selected the term Logos to be used in the sense 
of the divine mind, leaving the term mind to be used in the 
sense of the human mind.* 

^ Cf. above^ p. 230, 

“ Cf. Index to Arnim, under 'kSyosj wOs, 

* He never uses the terra **raind” in the sense of God’s mind. As for the desig- 
nation of God as the mind of the world, see below, pp. 345 ff. 



Besides this quite understandable reason, the term Logos, 
in addition to its meaning of mind and the thinking power 
of mind, has also in Greek philosophy the meaning of 
“word,” '• and it is used in the Septuagint ^ as well as the 
Wisdom of Solomon ® as a translation of the term “word” 
in the oft-repeated expression the “word of God.” Now the 
“word of God” in Scripture is used in the various senses in 
which we shall find the term Logos used by Philo, namely, 
as a means of the creation of the world, as a means of govern- 
ing the world, and as a means of prophecy and revelation. In 
Scripture, it is by the word of God that the heavens were 
made; it is in fulfillment of the word of God that the forces 
of nature perform their functions; ® it is the word of God 
that is communicated to prophets; ’ and it is the word of 
God that is revealed in the Law.’® With all this variety of 
usages of the term Logos in Scripture, it was quite natural 
for Philo, whose purpose was not only to interpret Scripture 
in terms of Greek philosophy but also to interpret philoso- 
phy in terms of Scripture, to substitute the term Logos for 
the term Nous. It is a matter of indifference to us whether 
in Judaism before the time of Philo the personification of the 
term Logos meant that the Word of God was already con- 
sidered as a real being created by God or whether its per- 
sonification was merely a literary figure of speech.^^ What 
is important for us is merely the fact that the term Logos 
in Scripture had such a variety of uses that it helped to rec- 
ommend itself to Philo as a substitute for the term Nous in 
the sense of the divine mind. 

With his substitution of the scriptural term Logos for the 
term Nous, it was quite natural for Philo to use also the 

< CLBomtZy Iniiex JrisMeikus^nndct‘K6yos 1. * Ps. 147; 18; 148: 8, 

* 33 (34^‘ H7» 18; 148: 8. 9 Isa. a: a;Ezek. 3: 16. 

^ Wisdom of Sobmon 9: i. « Exod* 34: ay, a8; Deut. 10: 4. 

f Ps, 33s 6, » Cf. below, p. aSy, n. 24. 


term Wisdom as the equivalent of Logosd^ For this he had 
the example of Scripture, where the term wisdom is used in 
almost all the senses that the term Word is used and, like 
the Word of God, Wisdom is said to be that by which God 
established the world; it is in Wisdom that all the works 
of God in the world are performed; it is imparted to men 
by God; it is personified;^^' and by the time of Philo it is 
already identified with the revealed Law^ and with the Word 
of Godd^ In the Wisdom of Solomon, wisdom is treated ex- 
actly as the Logos in Philo.^^ In Greek literature, too, he 
could find the use of the term Wisdom in the sense of mind 
in such a statement of Plato as that in \vhich he speaks 
of wisdom (croc^la) and mind (rods) as equivalent terms.*® 
Furthermore, personifiication of Wisdom is to be found also 
in Greek mythology.*^ Using Wisdom, therefore, as the 
equivalent of Logos, which is the totality of the powders, 
Philo speaks of it as having, prior to the creation of the 
world, those two stages of existence w^hich he attributed to 
the powers as well as to the Logos, namely, as a property of 
God and as a real being created by God. As a property of 
God, God's wisdom is described by him as eternal,*^ a certain 
kind of wisdom is called by him God's own wisdom/^ and 
God alone is said by him to be wise/'’ or God is said by him 
to be the only wise being.*® As something created by God, 
wisdom is conceived by him as being intermediate between 
God's own wisdom and human wisdom and is described as 

« Ltg, JU. 1, 19, 65. Frov. 8: 1 ff. 

*3 Jen 10*. I a; cf. Frov. 3; 19. Sirach 24: 23 IF. 

Fs. 104: 24. ** Wisdom of Solomon 9; i~2. 

Frov. 2:6. Cf. below, pp. 287 E. 

Phikhus 30 c; cf. Drummond, I, p. 67. 

Leisegang, ‘'Logos” in Pauly-Wissowa, 25, 1070, H. 7 E. 

" Immut, 20, 92, if the reading is diSiov and not iShv, 

*3 Leg. All 11 , 22, 87. 

Mtgr, 24, 134; Ccfjgr. 21, 114. 

Saer. 17, 64; Ekr. 27, 106; Fug. 8, 47. 



“ the fountain which He drew out of His own Wisdom ” 
or as the “flinty rock . . . which He cut off highest and chief- 
est from His powers.” As in the case of the created Logos, 
God is called the Father of Wisdom,®* and, while Wisdom, un- 
like Logos, is not called the son of God, it is called the daugh- 
ter of God, because both in Greek and in Hebrew the word 
for wisdom is of feminine gender.®® 

This conception of Wisdom as having been created by God 
is directly based upon the scriptural verses in which Wisdom 
is made to say, according to the Septuagint version, “ before 
the ages He founded {iOtiitkiwat) me . . .^° and before all 
hills, He begets {yew^) me.” The Greek for “founded” 
in “He founded me,” differs from the Hebrew, which reads 
“I was set up,” but it has the meaning of creation, as may 
be judged from the verse “By wisdom God founded {eOeiieKl- 
ua-e) the earth.” ^ Though in his paraphrase of the first 
verse of Wisdom’s speech Philo departs from the Septuagint’s 
version, “The Lord created (eKTive) me the beginning of His 
ways for His works,” and puts in its mouth the words 
“ God obtained (e’/cr^craro) me first of all his works, ” the 
substitution here of the word “obtained me” for the Septu- 
agint “created me” as a translation of the Hebrew kanani 
does not mean that he believed that Wisdom was not created 
by God but only obtained by Him after it had existed apart 

Leg. AIL II, 22, 87. In Sacr, 17, 64, God himself is said to be “the fountain 
of wisdom*’ who “imparts each form of knowledge to the mortal race,” but that 
e\ddently means that God is the ultimate fountain of knowledge. 

Leg.AiLll, ill, 86, 

IMd, 1, 19, 64. 

Fug. 9, 50-51, In § 51, wisdom is said to be called also father because it be- 
gets learning in souls. 

30 Prov. 8: 23. 

3 * Prov. 8: 15; quoted by Philo in Ebr. 8, 31. 

3* Prov. 3: 19. 

33 Prov. 8 : 11. 

3 ^ Ehr. 8, 31; cf. Vin. 10, 62. 


from God from eternity; it only means that he imported 
into the Greek term hTTfcrarOy which in the sense of '' he ob- 
tained” is a literal translation of the Hebrew term kanaka 
the additional meaning of "‘he created,” which tradition- 
ally the Hebrew term was taken here to have. We may 
gather this from another passage where Philo follows the 
Septuagint in translating the Hebrew term ka7mh by the 
Greek term meaning “to obtain” or “to get,” but in the 
course of his discussion he explains it to mean “to create.” 
In the passage in question he quotes from Scripture, through 
the Septuagint version, Eve's, or, according to him, Adam’s, 
statement after the birth of Cain, namely, “I have gotten 
(iKTTjaiLfirjv) a man through God”; and then, in his com- 
ment upon the inappropriateness of the use of the expression 
“through God,” which implies that God is only an instru- 
ment and not a cause, he says that “that which comes into 
being (yipojxevov) is brought into being {yiperai) through an 
instrument, but yet by a cause.” Here the Septuagint 
term Kriojuat, to acquire, is taken by him to mean yiymfiaiy 
to be born or to be created. In still another passage,^* he 
quotes from the Septuagint Abraham’s speech to Melchize- 
dek, Kingof Salem: “ I will stretch forth my hand to [theLord], 
the most high God, w^ho created {Un<r€^ Hebrew koneh) 
heaven and earth,” but immediately after thus translating 
the Hebrew koneh by the Greek meaning “who created,” 
he refers to God as He “whose KTwara all things are.” The 
term Ktriixara quite evidently is used by him not in the sense 
of “possessions” but rather in the sense of “creations,” 

« Bat see D. B, Macdonald, H threw Phiksopkical Genius (Princeton Uni- 
versity Press, 1936), p. 51, who finds in this change of wording an indication of the 
belief in the eternity of wisdom. 

^ Gen. 4; I. LXX: Sid Bead. 

37 Cher. 35, 125. 

3 * Ebr. 27, 105. 

3 ^ Gen. 14: 22. 
-1° 28, 107. 



which conclusively shows that with Philo the Greek Kraoixat 
has acquired through the Hebrew kanah the meaning “to 
create” in addition to its original meaning “to obtain.” 

Wisdom, then, is only another word for Logos, and it is 
used in all the senses of the term Logos. Both these terms 
mean, in the first place, a property of God, identical with 
His essence, and, like His essence, eternal. In the second 
place, they mean a real, incorporeal being, created by God 
before the creation of the world. Third, as we shall show. 
Logos means also a Logos immanent in the world,'*" and so, 
also wisdom, again as we shall show, is used in that sense.'*“ 
Fourth, both Logos and wisdom are used by him in the sense 
of the Law of Moses.'*^ Finally, Logos is also used by Philo 
in the sense of one of its constituent ideas, such, for in- 
stance, as the idea of mind.'*'* In the light of all these various 
uses of the terms Logos and wisdom, if we do happen to 
come across certain passages in which he does not seem to 
be treating these two terms as identical we must not at once 
accuse him of inconsistency.'*® We must try to find out 
whether in those passages in which he does not seem to 
treat them as identical he does not use one of these two 
terms in one sense and the other in another sense. Let us 
examine a few such typical instances. 

In one place he says that the law of the cities of refuge, 
allegorically interpreted, means to bid man “to pass for- 
ward to the supreme divine Logos, who is the fountain of 

Cf. below, pp. 325 ff. 

Cf, below, pp. 333-334, which is in opposition to Heinze, 'Die Lekre vom Logos 
in der grkchtschen Philosophies p. 255. In the Wisdom of Solomon, wisdom is 
simiiariy used in this sense; see below, p. 288. 

« Cf, 6 Up&s Xih'os (Spec, I, 39, 215, and elsewhere); cro^jla (Leg, AIL III, 15, 
46); cf. above, pp. 147, 184; below, 11, 189. 

** Cf. above, p. 233. 

Cf. discussion on these inconsistencies in Hdnze, Die Lehre vom Logos, p. 253; 
Drummond, II, 207-21 1; Goodenough, By Light, Light, p. 22. 


wisdom, in order that he may draw from the stream and, 
released from death, gain life eternal as his prize/' Here, 
then, Logos is explicitly said to be the fountain of Wisdom 
and not identical with it. But the inconsistency disappears 
when in this passage the term Logos is taken to refer to the 
antemundane Logos and the term wisdom is taken to refer 
to the wisdom in the sense of the rev^ealed Law of Moses. The 
passage lends itself to this interpretation. Taken in this 
sense, the Logos indeed is the fountain of wisdom. In a simi- 
lar way Philo could have said that the antemundane wis- 
dom is the fountain of the revealed wisdom, for the belief in 
the preexistence of the Law means that the revealed Law has 
its origin in the preexistent Law.'*'^ 

In another place, taking the high priest to symbolize the 
Logos and commenting upon the verse that the high priest 
‘‘shall not defile himself for his father or for his mother.” 
Philo says that this is “because, methinks, he is the child of 
parents incorruptible and wholly free from stain, his father 
being God, who is likewise Father of all, and his mother 
Wisdom, through whom the universe came into existence,” 
Here, again, it would seem that Logos and Wisdom are not 
identical. But again the solution of the difficulty is to be 
found in the fact that, in this passage, wisdom, as is quite 
evident from the context, refers to the antemundane wisdom, 
whereas the Logos, symbolized here by the high priest, re- 
fers to the immanent Logos. For when we closely examine 
the kind of Logos which, according to Philo, the high priest 
symbolizes, we shall find that he symbolizes both the in- 
corporeal Logos of the intelligible w’orld and the immanent 
Logos in the visible world; about the latter w’e shall speak in 
a subsequent chapter.'*^® This is definitely brought out by 

Fu ^. 58,97. 

Cf. above, p. 184* 

4* Lev. 21 *. II. 
4* 20, 109. 

s* Cf. below, p. 325. 



Philo in his discussion of the symbolism of the high priest’s 
vesture, concerning which he says that you will find “his 
holy vesture to have a variegated beauty derived from pow- 
ers belonging some to the realm of pure intellect, some to 
that of sense-perception.” Elsewhere he tells us what 
powers of the visible world some of the garments symbolize: 
they are the four elements, the upper and the lower hemi- 
spheres, and the signs of the Zodiac.^^ Now in the passage in 
question Philo especially emphasizes the symbolism of the 
high priest as the immanent Logos of the visible world. He 
says : “ Now the garments which the supreme Logos of Him 
that is put on as raiment are the world, for it arrays itself 
in earth and air and water and fire and all that comes forth 
from these.” Consequently when he says that the Logos 
symbolized by the high priest has Wisdom as its mother, he 
means thereby the immanent Logos which, as we shall see, 
has its source in the intelligible Logos,®'' the latter of which 
is identical with the Wisdom spoken of in this passage. 

In still another place, in his allegorical interpretation of 
the verse “A river goes out of Eden to water the garden: 
thence it separates into four heads,” ®® he says that Eden 
means here “the Wisdom of the Existent,” and “the divine 
Logos descends from the fountain of Wisdom like a river to 
lave and water the heaven-sent celestial shoots and plants 
of virtue-loving souls which are as a garden; and this holy 
Logos is ‘separated into four heads,’ which means that it is 
split into four virtues.” Now, in another place, comment- 
ing upon the same verse, he says: “‘River’ is generic virtue, 
goodness. This issues forth out of Eden, the wisdom of God, 
and this is the Logos of God, for in accordance with that has 

5 * Mijfr. 1 8, 102; cf. Wisdom of Solomon i8: 24. S4 Qf. below, p. 327. 

s» Mos. II, 24, 117-126; Spec. 1 , 16, 85-87. ss Gen. 2; 10 (LXX). 

Fup 20, 1 10. s« Somn, II, 36, 242-243. 


generic virtue been made. And generic virtue waters the 
garden, that is, it waters the particular virtues.’’ Here, 
then, we have an inconsistency. In these two passages the 
term wisdom is taken in the same sense, undoubtedly in the 
sense of a property of God, but, with respect to Logos, in the 
first passage it is said to issue forth out of wisdom, while in 
the second passage it is said to be identical with wisdom. 
But the inconsistency disappears if the term Logos in these 
two passages is taken to be used in two different senses. In 
the first passage it is used in the sense of the idea of virtue,"^* 
or, as Philo calls it, generic virtue, and in the second passage 
it is used in the sense of a property of God. 

VIL The Instrumentality of the Logos 
AND Wisdom 

The terms which have so far come into play in our dis- 
cussion of Philo’s theory of ideas are five: ideas, powers, 
intelligible w^orld, Logos, and wisdom. The term ideas is 
of Platonic origin; the terms powers and Logos are of a mixed 
Greek and scriptural origin; the term intelligible world is of 
Philo’s own coining, based upon a somewhat similar com- 
bination of terms in Plato; the term wisdom is predominantly 
of scriptural origin. But then we find one more term which 
Philo uses as a description of the Logos, and, indirectly, of 
wisdom, and that is the term “instrument” iopyavoi^).^ Let 
us study the origin of this term as used by Philo and also the 
special sense in which he uses it. 

The origin of this term, we shall try to show, is Aristote- 
lian. When Aristotle, in opposition to Plato, had brought 
down the ideas { IBim ) from what Plato called the “super- 
s' Leg . AU . L 65. s* Cf. above, p. 133. 

* Cher . 35, 125-127. 



celestial place” (virepovpavios totos) and the “intelligible 
place ” (voriTos totosY beyond material things, and attached 
them to material things as forms (el'S?;) inseparable from 
them, he still retained for them some of the characteristic 
terms by which Plato described his ideas. His form, like the 
Platonic idea, is still called pattern {irapaSetyfia) and cause 
{aiTiov)J But form to him is not the only cause. It is one of 
the two main causes, the other being matter, and form it- 
self is subdivided into three causes, the efficient, the formal, 
and the final, thus making all together four causes. In his 
description of the relation of these four causes to each other, 
he says that form subsists in the “efficient cause,” ■* the 
efficient cause is the cause of “ form ” in matter,® and through 
“matter” form is fulfilled as the “end.”^ Thus the four 
causes, according to Aristotle, make up a series, in which the 
efficient cause is the beginning, the final cause is the end, and 
form and matter are intermediaries. The efficient cause 
works on matter by means of form, and form becomes a 
final cause by means of matter. Such intermediaries between 
the efficient cause and the final cause are in accordance with 
Aristotle’s own terminology to be called “instruments” 
(Bpyava).'’ We should therefore expect to find that both the 
material cause and the formal cause are called instruments 
by Aristotle, inasmuch as both these causes exist as inter- 
mediaries between the efficient cause and the final cause. 
And, in fact, we do find that both these causes are described 
by him as instruments, the material cause as the instrument 
of the formal cause and the formal cause as the instrument 

» Rep. VI, 509 D, VII, 517 b; cf. above, p. 227, 

3 Rhys, II, 3, 194b, 26; Metaph, V, 2, 1013a, 27. 

4 Qen. Animal II, i, 73.2a, 4-5, 

s Metaph. VII, 8, 1034a, 4-5; XII, 4, 1070b, 30-34. 

* Rhys. II, 7, 198a, and see Ross's note in bis edition. 

» Metaph. V, 2, 1013a, 35“ioi3b, 3. 


of the efficient cause. With regard to the material cause^ it 
is directly described by him as an instrument of the formal 
cause in a passage in which he says of it that it is “ that which 
serves as an instrument to what is generated/’ ^ or that it is 
‘‘that which is used by the end/’ ^ meaning here by the 
term “end” the “formal cause” which, in this passage, is 
identified with the final cause/® The description of the formal 
cause as an instrument is suggested by him in his criticism 
of the materialists who, owing to their failure to distinguish 
between the material cause and the other causes, recognize 
only the material cause. As a result of their recognition of 
only the material cause, argues Aristotle, their explanation 
of the process of becoming differs from his. According to 
their explanation, the process of becoming is to be ac- 
counted for only by the action of the elementary qualities 
hot and cold, which they consider as forces inherent in mat- 
ter and hence as constituting a material cause. In contra- 
distinction to this, Aristotle’s own view is that hot and cold 
are “form” and “privation,” or two “contraries,” wffiich 
exist in matter as their common “'substratum”; ” and the 
process of becoming, according to him, is to be explained by 
the action of an efficient cause which employs a formal cause 
in order to cause matter to attain a final cause. In his criti- 
cism of the materialists he argues, first, against their omission 
of the efficient cause and, second, against their omission of 
the formal cause. By their omission of the efficient cause, 
he argues in the first place, they flagrantly disregard facts 
observed both in art and in nature.* **^ By their omission of 

* Dc Gen, Animal II, 6, 741a, 24, 

9 Ibid.y 23 and 32. 

“ Ibid, 1 , 1, 715a, 5^; cf. Zeller, II, p. 328, n. i {AfutatU^ II, p. 356, n. i). 

« Metaph, XII, 4, 1070b, 11-12. 

“ De Gen, et Carr. II, i, 329a, 30^31. 

« Ibid. 11 , 9, 33sb, 119-33. 



the formal cause, he argues in the second place, they errone- 
ously treat the elementary qualities hot and cold, which to 
them are material causes, as “too instrumental” (\lav 
opyaviKas).^* From his contention, therefore, that the ma- 
terialists by their omission of formal causes have erroneously 
treated material causes as “too instrumental” it may be 
inferred that this instrumental character which the ma- 
terialists erroneously attribute to what they consider ma- 
terial causes should be attributed to what Aristotle considers 
formal causes. From these statements of Aristotle with re- 
gard to the use of the term instrument we thus gather that 
matter may be considered as the instrument of the formal 
cause and form may be considered as the instrument of the 
efficient cause. 

Now Philo, in his adoption of the Platonic theory of ideas, 
has taken out the Aristotelian forms from within the world 
and made a new world out of them, the intelligible world, and 
this new world he placed in the Logos.*® As a result of 
this, the term “instrument,” which Aristotle indirectly ap- 
plies to form, is applied by Philo to the Logos. That it is 
Aristotle from whom Philo has borrowed the term instru- 
ment in its application to the Logos may be gathered from 
one of the passages in which the Logos is described by him 
as the instrument (Spyavov) through which (fid ov) the world 
was framed {KarearKevaaBri).^^ Immediately preceding this 
description of the Logos as an instrument, there is a passage 

Ihid»i 336a, i~6. Cf. Joachim’s notes in his edition (pp. 249-252), With 
regard to “hot and cold,” he says first of Aristotle that he regarded them as forces 
inherent in, and constitutive of, matter” (p. 250, II. 4-5) and then the same of the 
materialists that they regarded them as forces “inherent in, and constitutive of, 
the matter of which bodies consist” (p. 251, 11 . 35-36). This is undoubtedly an 
accidental error. To Aristotle, as we have seen (above n. ii) “hot and cold” arc 
“form and privation.” Cf. also Cherniss, Aristotle's Criticism of Presocratic Phil- 
osophy y p. 228, m 48. 

*5 Cf. above, p. 231. 

^6 Cher.zSy ^^7- 


in which Philo enumerates the Aristotelian four causes.’’ 
Three of these causes are quite obviously described by him 
in terms suggested by the Aristotelian vocabulary. The 
efficient cause is described by him vaguely by one form of the 
Greek term for cause (alriov) and more specifically by the 
expression “that by which” (ro i’4> ov), which expression is 
similarly used by .Aristotle as a description of the efficient 
cause.’* The material cause is described, exactly as in 
Aristotle, by the term matter (i’X)?) and by the expression 
“that from which” (to of).” The final cause is described 
again vaguely by another form of the Greek term for cause 
(airla) and more specifically by the expression “that for 
which” (to Si’ 6) and goodness (ayadorris). Similarly in .Aris- 
totle, the expression “that for which” (to Sta Tt)" and the 
term “the good” {rayaBovY^ are used as descriptions of the 
final cause. In his description of the formal cause, however, 
Philo departs from the vocabulary used by Aristotle in 
those passages in which he formally enumerates the four 
causes. Instead of the term “form” which is used by 
Aristotle, he uses the term instrument (opyavov; ipyaXehv), 
and instead of the expression “that from which,” which is 
used by Aristotle as a description of both the material and 
the formal cause,” he uses the expression “that through 
which” (to ov). Now the expression “ that through which” 
is used also by Aristotle in the sense of instrument,’^ and 
consequently he could have used it also as a description of 

I’ JiiJ., IS5-J27. 

Melaph. I, 4, 985a, 25 and 27; cf. R. Eucken, XJeher den Sprachgeifrauch des 
AristoteleSy i868» p. 73. 

Cf. Phys, II5 3, I94b5 24; Metaph. V, 2, icija, 24. 

Anal. Post, I, 24, 85b, 27-35. This use of the expression is not brought out 
by Eucken, op, dt, pp. 38-39. 

Metaph. I, 3, 983a, 33. 

« Phys, II, 3, 19sa, 19; Metaph, V, 2, 1013b, 20~2I. 

*3 Phys, Mil, 5, 256a, 6; cf. Eucken, op, cit., p. 38. 



form, for, as we have seen, form is described by him as an 
instrument. In the light of all this, we may reasonably as- 
sume that Philo’s description of the Logos as an instrument 
through which the world was made, resting as it does, ac- 
cording to his own statement, upon what he considered as a 
generally accepted description of form as an instrument 
through which something is made, is ultimately of Aristote- 
lian origin, even though there may have been some inter- 
mediary source, as yet undiscovered, upon which Philo was 
directly dependent. As for the term instrument as a descrip- 
tion of the Logos, it is used by Philo in two passages, in which 
passages he says of the Logos that God “used it like an in- 
strument when He was making the world (eKocr/ioxo/et)” or 
that “when He was fashioning the world (e/cocryuoTrXdo-Tet), 
He used it as an instrument, so that the arrangement of all 
the things that He was completing might be faultless.” In 
three passages, however, instead of describing the Logos 
directly as an instrument, he describes it as such indirecdy 
by speaking of it as that “through which ” (5t’ oS) the world 
was framed (eSijptoup'yelro)”® or “by which” ($) God made 
(eipya^ero) the world.*^ 

Just as the Logos is described by Philo as an instrument 
“through which” or “by which” the world was made, so 
also is Wisdom described by him as that “through which 
(5i ^s) the world came into existence” or “was brought to 
completion.” This is as should be expected, inasmuch as 
Wisdom is used by him as the equivalent of the Logos.^" But 
instead of applying to Wisdom the term instrument, he ap- 
plies to it the term mother.^^ In one place he describes Wis- 

Leg, AIL III, 31, 96. Jmmut, 12, 57. 

^5 Migr, 1,6, a® Fug. 20, 109. 

^ Sacr. 3, 8; Spec. 1 , 16, 81. Deter. 16, 54. 30 CL above, p. 255. 

** Fug. 20, 109; Deter. 16, 54; Leg. AIL II, 14, 49. The term “mother” is also 
implied in the statement that God is “the husband of Wisdom** {pher. 14, 49). 


dom as *'the mother and nurse (jLO'^Fif]) of the all.” Now 
in Plato the terms mother and nurse are applied to matter/’^ 
and elsewhere Philo himself makes reference to this use of 
these two terms by Plato and adopts them as a description 
of matter.^^ How does it happen, then, that in his theory of 
ideas, w^hich is based upon Plato, Philo should call Wisdcm, 
which is the totality of ideas, by terms w’hich Plato himself 
applies to that which is the opposite of the ideas? 

A clue to the explanation, however, is furnished by Philo 
himself in the very passage in which he applies the terms 
mother and nurse to Wisdom. In that passage, he first quotes 
from Scripture the verses in which Wisdom says of herself: 
‘‘God obtained me first of all his works and before the ages 
He founded me.” Then, commenting upon this verse, he 
says: “True, for it vcas necessary that all that came to the 
birth of creation should be younger than the mother and the 
nurse of the all.” Now’ it happens that a few^ verses be- 
low the verses quoted by Philo, Wisdom says that when God 
prepared the heaven and made the foundations of the earth 
strong, “I was with Him” — and here follow’s a wwd 
which in the masoretic Hebrew’ text reads amon and 

in the English Authorized Version is translated by “as one 
brought up with him.” But in the Septuagint it is translated 
by “as one working as a joiner” (dp/i6fottra), which shows 
that the underlying Hebrew reading for the Septuagint trans- 
lation was aman (1?^?), and the same underlying Hebrew 
reading is implied also in the translation of it “ as an artisan ” 
Eh , 8, 31. 

33 Timafus 50 D; 51 a; 49 a; 52 d. Cf. also Aristotle, Phs, I, 9, 192a, I4. 

34 Ei>r, 14, 61; in Gen, IV, 160; cf. below, pp. 300, 309. 

33 Br^hier (p. 119) explains it on the ground that in Greek mythology and 
mysteries the terms wisdom” and ^^mother” are sometimes used as descriptions of 
certain deities. 

36 prov. 8; 22-23. 

Ebr, 8, 31. 

if Prow. 8:30. 



(rex^ms) found in the Wisdom of Solomon.^^ But the 
Hebrew letters alephy mem^ nun^ which constitute the word 
amon or aman^ may also read omen (???^), which means a 
7 iursej and whenever that word omen occurs in Scripture it is 
translated in the Septuagint by ndrivos.^^ In the Midrash 
these two readings, oman and omeny would seem to have been 
regarded as of equal plausibility, for, in its speculation as to 
its meaning, it suggests both artisan and nurse, the latter 
in the sense of pedagogue or leader or trainer of boys.^^ 
Now the same Hebrew letters, alephy memy nuUy which may 
read either amony nursling, or amany artisan, or omeny nurse, 
may also be read imman (1?^^), meaning ‘‘their mother/’ 
Assuming, therefore, that Philo, after the manner of the 
Midrash, was speculating as to possible meanings of the 
word in question, we can easily see how it may have occurred 
to him to suggest that it might mean mother and nurse, 
whence he came to say that Wisdom is “the mother and 
nurse of the All/’ The same speculation as to these two 
possible meanings of the term, namely, mother and nurse, the 
latter in the sense of leader or trainer, is also reflected in the 
Wisdom of Solomon. Drawing upon the scriptural verse with 
regard to Wisdom which says that “length of days is in her 
right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor,” it says 
that “with her there came to me all good things together, 

Wisdom of Solomon 7: 22 {21), It is also possible that the reading was 
taken to mean the same as 

Cf. Num. II : 12; n Sam, 4; 4; Isa. 49: 23; Ruth 4: 16, 

Genesis Re^hah 1,1. 

** From his explanation of the name “Benjamin’* as meaning “son of days** 
{Mat. 15, 92; Scmn, 11 , 5, 36), whereby Philo shows that he took to be the 
same as it may be Inferred that he would also take here to be the same as 

T - • 

^ In the Septuagint tiStivSs Is used both as masculine and as feminine; cf. Num. 
11 : 12; IJ Sam. 4: 4; Isa. 491 23; Ruth 4: 16. 

Prov. 3; 16. 


and in her hands innumerable riches; and I rejoiced over 
them all because Wisdom leads (i^yetTai) them; though I 
knew not that she was the mother (yepinv) of The 

term ‘‘leads them’’ and “mother of them” undoubtedly 
reflects the double meaning of the three Hebrew consonants 
aleph^ mem^ nun which in Philo are given the meaning of 
“nurse” and “mother,” 

The application of the term instrument to the Logos, and 
hence also to the ideas or powers abiding in the Logos, does 
not mean that God has delegated to the Logos the act of the 
creation of the world, so that He cannot be considered as 
having created the world directly. That this is not the 
meaning of Philo’s use of the term instrument as a descrip- 
tion of the Logos may be gathered from a passage in which 
he discusses the creation of the different parts of the world. 
The world, he says, consists of three kinds of beings. First, 
the “stars,” that is, the heavenly bodies in general, and “un- 
bodied souls which range through the air and sky,” that is, 
angels, both of which partake of virtue and are immune 
from vice.-^® Second, plants and animals, which “partake 
neither of virtue nor of vice.” Third, man who is of “a 
mixed nature” and is capable of both “virtue and vice.” 
Of these three kinds of beings, tlie first two are declared by 
him to have been created by God himself, for, he says, “it 
was most proper to God, the universal Father, to make those 
excellent things by himself alone, because of their kinship to 
Him.” With regard to the third kind of being, man, God 
is said to have employed the “powders” as “co-workers” 
{(Tvv^pyol) in creating him,^° and even in the case of man the 
powers were used as co-workers only in the creation of his 

Wisdom of Solomon 7: 11-12. OpiJ- 24, 73; Cmf. 35, 178. 

Opif, 24, 73; Conf. 35, 176. 4 ® OpiJ* 24, 74. 

47 Opif. 24, 73; Cenf, 35, 177. OpiJ. 24, 75; Conf.^h ^ 1 % 68-70. 



body and his irrational soul; his rational soul was created 
directly by God.®^ 

It is evident then that despite his statements that God 
used the Logos as an instrument through which the world 
was created, the creation of the world, with the exception of 
the body and the irrational soul of man, was considered by 
Philo as a direct act of God. The term instrument applied 
to the Logos does not therefore mean that the Logos was a 
“co-worker” of God in the act of the creation of the world in 
the same way as the powers are called by him “ co-workers ” of 
God in the act of the creation of man. The term instru- 
ment, therefore, is not used by Philo in the sense that God, 
who for some reason or other could not create the world by 
himself directly, delegated His power to the Logos, or to the 
ideas and powers abiding in the Logos, to act as His sub- 
stitute or representative or intermediary in the creation of 
the world. The sense in which Philo uses the term instru- 
ment can be gathered from the main passage in which he 
applies it to the Logos. In that passage, as we have seen, he 
substitutes it for Aristotle’s term form, which he has taken 
out from the world and restored to the position of a Platonic 
idea outside the world; and consequently it is in the sense 
that Aristotle has called his form instrument that Philo is 
to be expected to call his Logos instrument. Now in Aristotle 
the form is an instrument only in the sense that it is through 
the form that subsists in the mind of the artist as a pattern 
that the clay is molded into a statue. By the same token, the 
Logos is to be called instrument only in the sense that it is 
through the intelligible world as a pattern, with which the 
Logos is identical, that the visible world was created. In- 
strument, therefore, merely means pattern, for the tools 
which the architect employs in the building of a city include 
Cf. below, p. 289, 


not only axes and hammers and saws but also plans which, 
according to Philo’s parable,®' he carries in his mind. His use 
of the Logos, and the contents of the Logos, as a pattern does 
not deprive God of being directly the creator of the world, a 
creator without any co-worker or intermediary. 

But the question may now be raised: What need was there 
for God, prior to his creation of the world, to create ideas and 
an intelligible world made out of these ideas and a Logos to 
hold that intelligible world ? Why could not God, to whom 
“all things are possible,” create the world without any 
pattern ? Was not the creation of an intelligible world prior 
to the creation of the visible world merely a duplication of 
effort? This, as will be recalled, is one of the objections 
raised by Aristotle to the Platonic theory of ideas.®** 

Philo does not raise this question directly, but he provides 
an answer for it in his parable of the king who was about to 
found a city. “ God,” he says, “ being God, knew beforehand 
that a beautiful copy would never be produced apart from a 
beautiful pattern, and that no object of perfection would be 
faultless which was not made in the likeness of an original 
discerned only by the mind.” ®® The same explanation is also 
implied in his statement that “when God was fashioning the 
world, He employed the Logos as His instrument, so that the 
arrangement of all things that He was completing might be 
faultless.” This explanation quite obviously does not 
mean that God knew beforehand that He could not build a 
perfect world without a pattern, for that would be contrary 
to the omnipotence of God which Philo himself so often as- 
serts. What this explanation really means is that God acted 
after the analogy of any intelligent human being who does 

Cf. above, p. 243. 

53 Opif, 14, 46; Jos. 40, 044; in Gen. IV, 130. ss QpiJ. 4, 16. 

54 Cf. Metaph. 1 , 9, 990a, 34“bj 8. ^ Migr. i, 6, 



not enter upon any great project of building without having 
planned it out beforehand in his mind. But if one should 
further ask why God should act like an intelligent human 
being rather than like an omnipotent God, Philo would 
answer, as would also the rabbis, that God acts in such a 
way as to set an example to men. It will be recalled that in 
his comment upon the verse “And the Lord God made 
for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed 
them,” ” Philo says that this humble work of tailoring was 
quite suitable for God, inasmuch as it was intended “to 
teach wisdom ” to mankind, showing by the example of God 
who made these humble but useful garments that useful 
labor and frugality are more honorable than a wasteful life 
of luxury.^® Similarly the rabbis find in this verse an object 
lesson to men, teaching them to be as charitable as God and 
provide clothes for the naked.®’ 

But this question which he does not raise directly with re- 
gard to the Logos is raised by him with regard to the em- 
ployment of the powers as co-workers of God in the creation 
of the body and the irrational soul of man. “One may not 
unfitly raise the question,” he says, “what reason there could 
be for his [i.e. Moses’] ascribing the creation in the case of 
man only not to one Creator as in the case of the rest but, as 
theVords [‘let us make man’] would suggest, to several.” ^ 
In answer to this question Philo offers two explanations. 

First, it is “because He deemed it right (5t/catwj/) that by 
the Sovereign should be wrought the sovereign faculty in the 
soul, the subject part being wrought of subjects.” 

Second, since among all created beings man alone is en- 
dowed with the freedom to choose evil,®* “God deemed it 

Gen. 3: ai. 

s* ^u. in Gen* I, 53; cf. above, p. 121. 
59 Sotah 14a. 

< 5 ° Opif* 24, 72. 

Fug, 13, 69. 

Cf. below, p. 431. 


necessary (avaynahv) to assign the creation of evil things to 
other makers, reserving that of good things to himself 
alone.” In another place, the same answer is phrased as 
follows: “Very appropriately {irpoa-rjKovTu;) therefore has 
God assigned a share in the creation of this being, man, to 
His lieutenants, saying ‘let us make man,’ so that man’s 
right actions might be attributable to God, but his sins to 
others, for it seemed to be unfitting to God, the ail-ruler, 
that the road to wickedness within the reasonable soul should 
be of His making, and therefore He delegated the forming of 
this part to those about Him.” In still another place, the 
phrasing of this explanation is as follows; The employment of 
the powers in the creation of man is to the end that, '‘when 
man orders his course aright, when his thoughts and deeds 
are blameless, God the universal ruler may be owned as their 
source, while others from the number of His subordinates are 
held responsible for thoughts and deeds of a contrary sort: 
for the Father ought (?5et) not to be cause of evil to his 
children, and vice and vicious activities are evil.” ** 

Here, again, Philo does not say that God could not create 
man perfect and sinless, or that He himself could not create 
directly the imperfection and sinfulness in man, or that it 
was improper for Him, by reason of His own nature, to 
create directly the imperfection and sinfulness of man. Ail 
he says is that, since man was to have a sovereign faculty and 
a subject faculty, it seemed “right” to God to assign the 
creation of the subject faculty to His subordinate powers 
and also that, since man was to be created imperfect, God 
deemed it “necessary” or “appropriate” that He himself 
should not be direcdy the creator of the imperfect part in 
man. If, again, the question were asked why God deemed it 
necessary or appropriate, Philo would undoubtedly answer 
Fuz- 13, 70. ConJ. 35, 179. Opif. 24, 75. 



again that it was in order “ to teach wisdom ” to mankind. 
That Philo did not mean that it was improper for God, by- 
reason of His own nature, to be directly the cause of evil is 
evident from the fact that, under certain circumstances, as 
we shall see, God himself is considered by him as the direct 
cause of evil.®'® 

From all these passages it is quite clear that the Logos is 
called an instrument through which the world was created 
only in the sense that in it are contained the ideas which 
served as patterns for the creation of the world. As instru- 
ments in the mere sense of patterns they were used in the 
creation of the heavens, of all living and non-living beings 
under the heavens, of the four elements,®'^ and, as we shall 
show, even of matter.®* But in the case of the creation of the 
body and the irrational soul of man, the ideas as powers 
were used as instruments in more than the mere sense of 
patterns; they were co-workers of God, to whom He dele- 
gated the task of their creation, and the reason why God em- 
ployed the ideas as patterns in the creation of the world and 
why also He delegated to them, as powers, the act of the 
creation of the body and the irrational soul in man is that 
God acted in a manner in which He wanted man to act. 

In opposition to this argument, there is a passage in which 
Philo would seem to say that God delegated to the ideas or 
powers not only the act of creating man but in general the 
act of the creation of the whole world. The passage reads as 
follows: “When out of that [shapeless and qualityless mat- 
ter] God produced all things. He did so without touching 
marrhuepos) it himself, since it was not lawful (Oi/xts) for His 
nature, happy and blessed as it was, to touch i^aixeiv) in- 
definite and confused matter, but instead He made full use 
of the incorporeal powers, well denoted by their name of 

^ Cf. below, p, 382, <*7 Cf. above, p. 269. Cf. below, p. 308. 


ideas (ISiai), to enable each genus to take its appropriate 
shape.” In this passage, it will be noticed, he speaks of 
“all things” {wclpt’) and of “each genus” {yevos tKacrTov)y 
and concerning “all things ” and “each genus,” not only con- 
cerning man, he would seem to say that God did not create 
them directly himself but only through the agency of the 
powers. This would seem to be contradictory to some of his 
other statements which we have quoted above; and, unless 
we assume that Philo did not know his own mind, or that he 
changed his mind, a way must be found to reconcile this 
statement with his other statements. 

A way of reconciling this apparent contradiction is to be 
found, we believe, in the distinction drawn by Philo between 
the powers which existed as patterns prior to the creation of 
the world and the powers which, upon the creation of the 
world, entered the created things and have remained imma- 
nent in them as the principle of the preservation of the forms 
of the things in the world and of the world as a whole. We shall 
deal fully with this stage in the existence of the powers, the 
third stage of their existence, in a later chapter. These im- 
imanent powers, constituting in their totality an immanent 
Logos, are treated by Philo, as we shall see, after the manner 
of the powers and Logos of the Stoics which are always im- 
manent, and are described by him in terms of the Stoic de- 
scription of their immanent powers and Logos. Now the 
passage just quoted follows Philo’s criticism of the Stoic con- 
ception of powers, and the theory of ideas or powers pre- 
sented therein is offered in opposition to the Stoic conception 
of powers, and as an improvement thereon. But inasmuch 
as the Stoic conception of powers criticized by Philo is one 
of immanent powers, the improved substitute for that con- 
ception offered by Philo must necessarily be his own con- 

69 Spec, 1 , 6o» 329. 



ception of immanent powers. We shall, therefore, try to 
show that the powers which in the passage quoted are de- 
scribed as intermediaries, and not merely as patterns, refer 
to the powers immanent in the world and not to the powers 
which existed prior to the creation of the world. 

Let us therefore first analyze Philo’s criticism of the Stoic 
conception of powers, and then, in the light of that criticism, 
let us interpret his own conception of powers in the passage 

The powers (dwaixeis) of God, according to the Stoics, 
pervade the world throughout and do not exist as incorporeal 
beings outside the world, even as God himself, according to 
the Stoics, is immanent in the world and is not an incor- 
poreal being outside the world. God, who is immanent in 
the world and whose powers pervade the world throughout, 
is identified by them with the active {iroi,odv) principle in the 
primitive fire out of which the world came into being,^* and 
that active principle is called by them quality (TrotoTTjs).^^ 
By the same token, we assume, the powers of God may also 
be called qualities. This active principle or quality is in- 
separably connected, according to the Stoics, with a passive 
{irha-xov)’’^ principle, which they call matter or sub- 

stance without quality (aroios ovcrla)J^ Now the powers or 
qualities which pervade ail things are conceived by the 
Stoics as being themselves material things, and they are said 
to reside in material things in the sense of their being inter- 
mingled with them.'^® Furthermore, these material powers or 
qualities intermingled with material things are said by the 

” Diogenes, VII, 147. 

7 ' Ibid., VII, 134. 

Cf. Zeller, III, i^, p. 100, n. 3 (Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics', p. 105, n. 1). 

” Diogenes, VII, 134. 

74 Ihid* 75 Jhid, 

Cf. Zeller, III, p. loi, n. i {Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics^, p. 105, n. 3). 


Stoics to be active by their own nature and not by reason of 
some power above them, for, the Stoics hold, there is no 
power above the qualities. 

This is the Stoic conception of powers which Philo under- 
takes to criticize. Accurately restating their view, he says 
of the Stoics, without mentioning their name, that “ some aver 
that the incorporeal ideas are an empty name, having no 
participation in any real fact’' and abolish “the archetypal 
patterns of all the qualities (joioTTires) of substance (oucrtay), 
on which the form and dimensions of each separate thing 
was modelled.” ^7 His criticism of this view is stated by him 
tersely. “The creed which abolishes ideas,” he argues, “con- 
fuses everything and reduces it to that formless and quality- 
less substance which underlies the elements.” What he 
means to say by this terse criticism is this. With their be- 
lief that “quality” is as material as “substance,” and with 
their denial of the existence of incorporeal ideas or powers 
above the qualities, the Stoics have really no reason for as- 
suming any distinction between quality and substance. The 
two are alike, and consequently all things are formless and 
qualityless matter, and there is therefore no adequate ex- 
planation of why things in the world differ from one another 
according to certain definite and permanent forms, such, for 
instance, as we observe in the elements and in things formed 
out of the elements. He finds an allegorical allusion to this 
Stoic view in the scriptural term “crushed,” for, he says, 
“anything crushed has lost its quality and form and, to 
speak the strict truth, is nothing else than shapeless mat- 
ter.” Briefly restated, his argument is as follows: With 
their denial of the existence of incorporeal ideas or powers, 
the Stoics also deny that the powers which are immanent in 

77 spec, I, 60, 327. 
7 * I, 60, 328. 

79 Deut. 23: a (i). 
Spec, 1 , 60, 328. 



things are not intermingled with the matter of those things. 
But by denying the latter, they are left with no explanation 
for the persistence of qualities in things. But since qualities 
do persist in things and since an explanation for this persist- 
ence must be found, the persistent qualities, he wishes us to 
conclude, are not intermingled with the matter of the things 
in which they persist. That the argument here is from the 
persistence of qualities in things for the existence of imma- 
nent powers which are not intermingled materially with those 
things is also evident from his concluding remark, which 
reads as follows: “That erroneous view introduces great dis- 
order and confusion, for, by abolishing those [powers], by 
means of which the qualities [exist], it abolishes the quali- 
ties also.” Note that no verb is given in the phrase “by 
which the qualities”; the verb is only understood, and natu- 
rally the verb understood here is dcri {exist) rather than 
VQVTO {came into existence). Now the expression “those 
powers by means of which the qualities exist” inevitably 
means the immanent powers by means of which the quali- 
ties persist in their existence. It does not mean the incor- 
poreal powers or ideas by means of which as patterns or in- 
struments the qualities come into existence. 

It is this Stoic view, which, according to Philo, fails to ac- 
count for the permanency of shapes and qualities in the 
things of the world, that he tries to replace by his view of the 
immanent powers. He does not deal here with origin of 
shapes and qualities in things; he deals only with their per- 

Ihid,y 329: kvat-povcra yap raura, 5l* Sty at iroLdrrir&j (jvva.vat.pu 'KoibTiiraSj 
translated in Mangey; **sublatis enim ideis unde qualitates sunt^ qualitates ipsas 
tollit pariter”; by Yonge: “For when it takes away the things by means of which 
the distinctive qualities exists it at the same time takes away the distinctive qualities 
themselves”; by Heinemann in Philos JVerkei “indem er namlich die Wesenheiten 
leugnet, durch wekhe die Eigenschaften entstehen^ hebt er auch die Eigenschaften 
selbst auf”; by Colson: “For by abolishing the agencies which created the qualities ^ 
it abolishes the qualities also.” 


manency in them. He assumes that matter already exists, 
without telling us here that it was brought into existence by 
God. This he tells us elsewhere.*^ Indeed he starts the pres- 
entation of his own theory of ideas with the words “When 
out of that shapeless and qualityless matter God produced 
all things,” but it is not his object here to tell how God pro- 
duced all things out of matter. This he tells us elsewhere, 
and, according to what he tells us elsewhere, all things, with 
the exception of the body and the irrational soul of man, 
were produced directly by God.*^ Here he only tries to tell 
us how these shapes and qualities were implanted in “all 
things ” and in “each genus ” at the time of their creation so 
that they would be permanent in them. This was not done 
directly by God, for “ it was not lawful ” for God to enter the 
matter out of which all things were created. This was done 
by the powers, for whom, though they are incorporeal, it 
was lawful to enter that matter and become immanent in it 
and thereby act as the principle of the preservation of the 
shapes and qualities. But though they enter the matter, 
they still retain their own distinctive character and do not 
become intermingled with the matter. The fuU meaning of 
Philo’s statement, then, is as follows: “When out of that 
[shapeless and qualityless matter] God produced all things 
[and wished these things to remain permanently possessed 
of the shapes and qualities with which they were created]. 
He did so without touching it himself [i.e., without him- 
self entering the matter], since it was not lawful for His 
nature, happy and blessed as it was, to touch indefinite and 
confused matter, but instead He made full use of the incor- 
poreal powers, well denoted by their name of ideas, to en- 
able each genus to take hold of (Xa^eiv) its appropriate 
shape [i.e., to take and preserve its appropriate shape].” 

Cf. below, p. 308. *3 Cf. above, p. 269. *■< S ^ ec . 1 , 60, 329. 



That the reference in these passages is to the immanent 
powers is evident from the fact that in a parallel passage, 
after dealing with the powers as incorporeal beings existing 
apart from the world, Philo makes God address Moses as 
follows: “But while in their essence they are beyond appre- 
hension, they nevertheless present to your sight a sort of 
impress of their active working. You men have for your use 
seals which, when brought into contact with wax or similar 
material, stamp on them any number of impressions, while 
they themselves are not docked in any part thereby but re- 
main as they were. Such you must conceive the powers 
around Me to be, supplying qualities to things devoid of 
qualities and shapes to things devoid of shapes, and yet 
changing or lessening nothing of their eternal nature.” In 
this passage, the powers which are compared to seals which 
come in contact with wax and stamp impressions upon it 
are quite evidently the powers in the third stage of their 
existence, after they have already become immanent in the 

The reason given by Philo in this passage for God’s not en- 
tering matter is couched in scriptural phraseology. It re- 
flects, in the first place, the many passages in Scripture in 
which it is commanded that the unclean shall not touch the 
clean, such, for instance, as “ She shall touch no holy thing,”*® 
“They shall not touch the holy things,” *^ “Whosoever 
touches the carcass of them shall be unclean,” ** and “ De- 
part ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean 
thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, ye that bear 
the vessels of the Lord.” *’ It also reflects many passages in 
Scripture in which God is described as holy, especially the 

*5 Ibid. I, 8, 47. 

Lev. 112:4. 

*7 Num. 4: 15. 

«« Lev. II: 24. 
*9 Isa. 52: II. 



passages in which the people are told that, because God is 
holy, they should be holy and should therefore refrain from 
defiling themselves with unclean meat.’" But behind this 
scriptural phraseology there is also a metaphysical reason. 
The holiness of God, which in Scripture implies greatness, 
majesty, exaltedness and elevation above all things earthly, 
has acquired with Philo the metaphysical meaning of im- 
materiality. A clear statement of this identification of the 
conception of holiness with that of immateriality is found 
in a passage in which Philo says that the wisdom of God is 
called holy {&yia) because it contains “no earthly ingredi- 
ent.” Still more striking is the identification of holiness 
and immateriality in another passage, in which Philo says: 
“Separate, therefore, my soul, all that is created, mortal, 
mutable, profane (fie^ifKov) from the conception of God the 
uncreated, the unchangeable, the immortal, the holy (ajlov) 
and solely blessed.” This passage sounds almost like an 
answer to Ezekiel’s complaint about the priests, that “ they 
have not separated between the holy i&yiov) and the pro- 
fane (/SejS^Xou).” ” Holiness, therefore, means with Philo 
immateriality; and the unlawfulness of the holy to touch 
matter means with him, metaphysically, the impossibility 
that the absolutely immaterial, such as God is, should enter 
matter. It is the powers only that can enter matter, for, 
though they are immaterial, their immateriality is presum- 
ably of a lower order than that of God, and they can there- 
fore enter matter, even as the immaterial rational soul can 
enter a body. 

Still while the powers that enter matter are used by God 
as intermediaries, it does not mean that, according to Philo, 
God, even though He is pure immateriality, could not, by 

9 ® Lev. II: 44; 20: 2^— 26* 
^ F«S- 3 S> 196- 

Sacr. 30, loi. 
Ezek. 22:26. 



His mere word and command, act upon the material world 
directly, without having to enter matter himself and with- 
out also having to employ intermediaries. In fact, there is 
evidence in Philo that such direct action of God upon the 
material world is possible. To begin with, all primary goods 
in the world come to deserving individuals directly by God.®"* 
Second, even evil things, such as punishments, which as a 
rule come indirectly from God through His powers,’® have 
sometimes come directly from him. Of such punishments 
which have come directly from God Philo mentions three of 
the ten plagues in Egypt, namely, the swarms of flies, the 
murrain, and the destruction of the first-born.’® Conse- 
quently, his statement that it was “not lawful ” for God, be- 
cause of His holiness, “to touch ” that which is profane does 
not mean that it was impossible for God to do so; it only 
means that God has thereby intended, as Philo says in the 
passage quoted above, “to teach wisdom” to men; in this 
case it is to teach them that it is “not lawful” for them to 
defile themselves by anything unclean. 

VIII. The Fiction of Intermediaries 

In the history of philosophy, with the appearance of the 
theory of emanation in Plotinus, there appears also the view 
that because God is immaterial and absolutely simple the 
world could not emanate from Him directly. This view is 
expressed by Plotinus in the formula put by him in the form 
of a question: “How from the One, as we conceive it to be, 
can any multiplicity or duality or number come into exist- 
ence? ” ^ or, “How could all things come from the One which 

CL below, p. 38a. 

w Ihid, 

* Mos. 1 , 17, 97J 53, 130-24, 139; cf. below, p. 349. 

* Enneads V, I, 6. 


is simple and which shows in its identity no diversity and no 
duality?” “ In raising this question Plotinus says that it has 
already been discussed by ancient philosophers.* The ref- 
erence is undoubtedly to Aristotle’s statement that “it is a 
law of nature that the same cause, provided it remains in 
the same condition, always produces the same effect” * or 
“that a single motion must be produced by a single cause.” * 
But since the world does exist, and, according to Plotinus, its 
existence is an emanation from God, he concludes that it 
must have emanated from God not directly but rather in- 
directly, through some intermediary. ‘ As the intermediary 
through which multiplicity emanated from unity Plotinus 
takes the ideas of Plato, the totality of which he calls Nous 
as Philo calls it Logos. 

This Plotinian principle that from one only one can pro- 
ceed, which we may call the principle of the equivalence of 
cause and effect, can be shown to be logically based upon an- 
other principle, equally insisted upon by Plotinus and equally 
reflecting, at least in its essential point, the view of Aristotle, 
namely, that God acts without will and design. The One, 
according to him, who is “immovable” (auviiTov 6 vtos) is also 
“without consent {oi Trpo<TV(va-avTos), without volition {oUh 
^ov\i]6ivTos), and in general without any kind of movement 
{oiSk SKo)s KivTiB^vTos ) ^ Now medieval philosophers were 
fully aware of this logical connection between these two 
principles, and consequently in their criticism of the theory 
of emanation both Maimonides and St. Thomas argue that 
if we assume that God acts by will and design there is no 
need for the assumption of intermediaries, for the principle 

» Jiu. v, 2, 1. 

3 liU. V, 1 , 6 . 

^ De Gen. et Com II, lo, 336a, 27-28. 

s Metaph. XII, 8, 1073a, 28. 

® Enneads V, 4, i. ’ Ibid. V, i, 6. 



that from one only one can proceed is not applicable to an 
agent who acts by design and will.* 

Modern historians of philosophy, however, have failed to 
see the connection between the principle of the equivalence 
of cause and effect and the principle of the necessary causality 
of God, and consequently whenever they find the conception 
of a God who is immaterial and simple they see an impossi- 
bility of His acting upon the world directly without inter- 
mediaries. This kind of reasoning has been especially ap- 
plied to Philo, who stresses not only the immateriality of God 
but also His unknowability. From the very beginning of the 
critical study of the philosophy of Philo it has been assumed 
that Philo, because of his conception of the absolute imma- 
teriality of God and the unknowability of His essence, was 
confronted with the problem of how to bring God into rela- 
tion with the world, both as creator and as governor, and in 
order to solve that problem he had to resort, as did Plotinus 
in a later period, to intermediaries. This common assump- 
tion of historians as to the starting point of Philo’s philo- 
sophic investigation has been well stated by Zeller: “The 
more abruptly the divine essence becomes separated from the 
world and the more every finite being is at the same time 
made unconditionally dependent upon divine causality, the 
more strongly does Philo find himself pressed by the neces- 
sity of resorting to intermediaries, whereby the action of an 
extramundane deity upon the world would become possible.”® 
Four kinds of such intermediaries, according to Zeller, were 
borrowed by Philo from various sources; “From the domain 
of philosophy, (i) the Platonic theory of ideas and (2) the 
Stoic theory of efficient causes [i.e., what the Stoics call the 

* Cf. Maimonides, Moreh Nehukim II, 122; St. Thomas, Contra Gentiles II, 21- 

9 Zeller, III, 24, p, 407. 


Logos or the mind or soul of the world], with which the Pla- 
tonic world-soul was easily combined; from the domain of 
religion, (3) the angels of Jewish-Persian origin and (4) the 
demons of Greek mythology.” “ In this combination of in- 
termediaries Zeller sees an attempt on the part of Philo to 
combine two contradictory “assertions,” the religious and 
the philosophical, “without noticing their contradiction” ” 
and without attempting to build up a “firm theory” or to 
reduce the various elements to a “system like that of Ploti- 
nus.” ” As a result of this, Zeller concludes, the philosophy 
of Philo, beginning as it did with two contradictory elements, 
“could not come to any unity of doctrine free from contra- 
dictions.” '5 This view with regard to the need of the Logos 
as an intermediary expresses the common view of historians 
up to the time of Zeller, and it has not been changed essen- 
tially since that time.^^ 

In our analysis of Philo’s conception of the instrumentality 
of the Logos and wisdom, we have already shown that Philo 
was not troubled by the problem of how his immaterial God 
could create a material world nor did he resort to any inter- 
mediaries as a solution for the problem. The Logos and, in- 
directly, also wisdom are described by him as instruments 
only in the sense of patterns; the need of patterns is ex- 
plained by him only on the analogy of intelligent human 
action; and the world as a whole and all that is therein, 

Ibid,y pp. 407-408; cf. Gfrorer, I, p. 134; Dahne, I, p. 155; Heinze, Die Lehre 
vom Logos y p. 204; Drummond, II, pp. 63-64. 

” Ibid.y p. 413. 

« Ibid.y p. 418. 

^3 Jbidn^ p. 466. 

Cf., e.g., J. Freudenthal, “Alexander Polyhistor,” in his Heilenistische Studien, 
1875, p. 73; P. Heinisch, Die grUchtsche PHilosophie im Buche dtr Weisheit^ 
pp. 122-123; 126; Julius Guttmann, D/tf PhilosopMe des Judentums, I 933 > PP* 34 ” 
35; J. Kiausner, From Jesus to Paul, 1943 (1939), pp* 181-183. 

*5 Cf. above, p. 270. Cf. aWe, p. 272. 



with the exception only of the human body and irrational 
soul of man, were created by God directly without any in- 
termediaries.^^ The only passage in which Philo would seem 
to speak of the powers as intermediaries, intervening between 
the holiness of God and the confusion of matter, refers, as 
we have shown, to the powers which are immanent in the 
world and are the principle of its preservation, and not to the 
powers which existed prior to the world and were the pat- 
terns of its creation.^® Moreover, even these immanent 
powers are employed by God not by the necessity of His 
aloofness from the world, but by reason of His choice and 
will, for, as we have shown, according to Philo himself, 
sometimes God dispenses with the intermediacy of these 
immanent powers and acts upon the world directly without 
any of these intermediaries.* ** ’ This disposes of those inter- 
mediaries which Zeller finds Philo to have borrowed from the 
Platonic theory of ideas and the Stoic theory of efficient causes 
or the Logos. With what he calls the Jewish-Persian angels 
and the Greek mythological demons we shall deal in a sub- 
sequent chapter.” 

Nor is there any justification for the assumption that the 
need of intermediaries in Philo is a Jewish heritage. The 
three verses which Philo quotes as proof text for the scriptural 
belief in the existence of ideas conceive of the ideas only as 
patterns and not as intermediaries to whom God has dele- 
gated the power of creation. As for use of Wisdom and the 
Word of God in Scripture in connection with the creation of 
the world, it does not by any stretch of the imagination mean 
that they were intermediaries. In Sirach, Wisdom, which is 
identified with the Law,” is said to have been created before 

*7 Cf. above, p. 269. 

** Cf. above, p. 276. 
*9 Cf. above, p. 282. 

*0 Cf. below, pp. 375 f. 
« Cf. above, p. 181. 

** Sirach 24: 23. 


the world, but it is nowhere said to have been used as an 
intermediary in the creation of the world. As for the metnra 
of the Targum, no scholar nowadays will entertain the view 
that it is either a real being or an intermediary.*'* In the 
Holy Spirit i^uah ha-kodesh) and Shekinah of the Talmud 
there is indeed sometimes the undoubted implication that 
they are real beings created by God, but their function is 
confined to the inspiration of prophecy; they are not used as 
intermediaries in the creation of the world.*® Even the 
angels, who as messengers of God are His intermediaries in 
the world, act as intermediaries not because God’s nature 
would not allow Him to act directly, but because God by His 
own will decides what actions in the world should be per- 
formed by him directly and what actions should be per- 
formed by the intermediacy of angels. This is evidenced by 
the fact that in native Jewish tradition, as in Philo, God oc- 
casionally acts directly without the intermediacy of angels.*® 

Wisdom in the Wisdom of Solomon is sometimes assumed 
to be different from the Logos of Philo *' but, like the Logos, 
it has given rise among students to a variety of conflicting 
interpretations. To our mind, however. Wisdom is dealt with 
in that book as the Logos, according to our interpretation, 
is dealt with in Philo. As the Logos in Philo, so Wisdom 
in the Wisdom of Solomon has three stages of existence: 
(i ) as a property of God, (i) as a real being created by God 
prior to the creation of the world, and (3) as a being im- 

Sirach 1 1 4. 

34 Cf. G. F. Moore, Judmsmy I, p. 417. Idem^ Intermediaries in Jewish Theol- 
ogy,” Harvard "theological Review, 15 (1922), 41-85. Cf. also Strack-Billerbeck, 
“Exkurs uber den Memra Jahves” in their Kommentar %um Neuen testament aut 
talmud und Midrasch, II, pp. 302-333; J. Abelson, the Immanence of God in 
Rabbinical Literature, pp. 14 ^^ 73 ; K. Kohler, *‘Memra,” Jew, Enc,y s, 0. 

« Cf. G. F. Moore, Judaism, I, p. 437; Abelson, o-p. ciu, pp. 77-14S; I 74 “!^ 77 ‘ 

Cf. above, pp. 269, 282. 

Cf, Heinisch, op, cit., pp. 126 ff. 



manent in the world. Starting with the last, we find (3) that 
as an immanent being it is described as that which “per- 
vades and penetrates all things,” and as that which “ex- 
tends mightily from end to end and administers all things 
well,” and as that which “ though but one, has power to 
do all things, and, remaining in herself, renews all things.” 

It is with reference to this immanent Wisdom also that 
Solomon is made to say, “For she that is the artificer (rexri- 
ns) of all things taught me, even wisdom”; for the im- 
manent Wisdom, in penetrating all things, penetrates also 
the human soul, being “all-powerful, all-surveying and pene- 
trating through all intelligent, pure, most rare spirits,” ^ 
and thus becoming the source of human knowledge and wis- 
dom. Then, (a) prior to the creation of the world. Wisdom, 
like Philo’s Logos, existed as a real being who was created by 
God, described as “alone in kind” (novoyevh)^^ and of 
“noble birth” (eiyivaa))^* as “sitting beside” (irapeSpov) 
God on the throne, as “initiated into the knowledge of 
God and a chooser (alpins) of His works,” and as being 
“with” God (pera <rov) and “present” {irapovcra) when He 
created the world.^^' But (i) all these powers of Wisdom and 
Wisdom itself were at first properties of God identical with 
His essence, possessed by Him even before He created 
Wisdom and endowed it with these various powers; for, 
ultimately, it is God who made the world,^® who is the 

Wisdom of Solomon 7: 24. 

Bid., 8 : 1 . 

3 ° Bid,f 7; 27. I take this to refer to the immanent wisdom, emphasizing that 
even in its immanent stage it is not corporeal and intermingled with the corporeal 
things. Cf, above, p. 279, and below, p. 327. 

3^ Ibid, 7: 22. 

33 Ibid, 7: 23. 

33 Ibid, 7; 22. 

34 Ibid, 8:3. 

33 Ibid, 9: 4. Cf. above, p. 220. 

36 Ibid, 8: 4. 

37 Ibid, 9; 9. 

3* Ibid, 9:9; II: 24. 


“artificer” (rexriTjys)” of the world, and who “administers”-'" 
(dioiKuv) all things. But it will be noticed that, speaking of 
Wisdom during its second stage of existence, he refers to it 
only as having been “with” God and as having been “pres- 
ent” when the world was created and as having also been a 
“chooser” of God’s works — that is to say, a sort of con- 
sultant, after the analogy of the angels in the Midrash 
and Talmud with whom God consulted at the creation of 
man; but it is nowhere described as an intermediary in the 
act of creation. 

The conclusion we are forced to reach is that Philo had 
neither a logical nor a historical reason to look for inter- 
mediaries, and if his Logos and powers and ideas are in some 
respects employed by God as intermediaries they are se- 
lected by Him for that task not because of the need to bridge 
some imaginary gulf between Him and the world, but rather, 
as Philo himself suggests, for the purpose of setting various 
examples of right conduct to men. 

IX. Conclusion-, Influence, Anticipation 

The starting point of Philo’s philosophy is Plato’s theory 
of ideas. By his time there were three conceptions of the 
ideas: first, that they existed as real incorporeal beings from 
eternity; second, that they have existence only as thoughts 
of God; third, that they have no existence at all except 
through their immanence in things. Philo combines these 

39 Utd, 13 : I. 

Ibid, 15: 1. By this assumption of three stages in the existence of Wisdom, 
ail the apparent contradictions in the Wisdom of Solomon with regard to Wisdom 
(cf. Heinze, Die Lehre vom Logos , pp. 197-201; Drummond, Philo Judaeus^ I, 219- 
225; Charles, ne Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament ^ I, 528) are 

Genesis Rahbah 8, 3-9; Sanhedrin 38b, 



three conceptions of ideas by endowing them with three 
stages or three kinds of existence. First, from eternity they 
had existed as thoughts of God; second, prior to the creation 
of the world they were created by God as real incorporeal 
beings; third, with the creation of the world they were im- 
planted by God in the world and thereby became immanent 
in the world. These three stages of existence are not succes- 
sive stages; they are three kinds of existence which the ideas 
have, corresponding to three classes of ideas; so that even 
after the creation of the world one class of ideas are still 
thoughts of God, another class of ideas are still real incor- 
poreal beings, and a third class of ideas are immanent in the 
world. In this chapter we have dealt only with the first two 
stages of their existence. In a subsequent chapter we shall 
deal with their third stage of existence. 

During their first stage of existence, when they were only 
thoughts of God, the ideas were patterns not only of things 
which subsequently came into existence with the creation of 
our world, but they were patterns also of all kinds of possible 
things in all kinds of possible worlds which God, had He 
chosen, could have created. But when God in His wisdom 
decided to create this our world. He first conceived in His 
thought and then created as real incorporeal beings those 
ideas which were to serve Him as patterns of things in our 
world to be created by Him. Various kinds of ideas are 
mentioned by Philo, and on the whole they are such as can 
be found in the various dialogues of Plato. But in departure 
from Plato he introduces two new ideas, the idea of mind and 
the idea of soul. 

Through a suggestion in Plato that the ideas are not only 
patterns but also causes endowed with power, Philo identifies 
the ideas with the term “powers ” which is used in Scripture 
in the expression “ the Lord of the powers,” or, as the ex- 


pression runs in English, “the Lord of hosts.” Accordingly, 
he calls the ideas also by the term powers. 

Through another suggestion in Plato that the ideas in 
their totality constitute what he calls an “intelligible ani- 
mal,” corresponding to our world which he calls a “visible 
animal,” Philo calls the totality of ideas by the name of 
“intelligible world.” 

Then also, through the general philosophic view that 
thoughts must be the object of a thinking mind, Philo con- 
sidered the ideas, while they were yet thoughts of God, as 
having been conceived by the mind of God, which mind, of 
course, was identical with God’s essence. This mind of God 
is called by him, tor various reasons, the Logos of God and 
sometimes also the Wisdom of God. Moreover, when God 
compacted these ideas and created them as an intelligible 
world. He also created a mind in which the intelligible world 
and hence also the ideas were to be contained. This mind, 
created by God as the container of the intelligible world, is 
similarly called by him Logos and sometimes also Wisdom. 
In the Logos and Wisdom, just as in the ideas which are con- 
tained in them, there are thus also three stages of existence; 
first, a Logos or Wisdom which is eternal and is identical 
with God’s essence; second, a Logos or Wisdom which is 
created as an incorporeal real being and is distinct from 
God’s essence; third, an immanent Logos or Wisdom. 

Five terms all together are used by Philo in connection with 
the ideas, namely, (i) ideas, (2) intelligible world, (3) pow- 
ers, (4) Logos, (5) Wisdom. These five terms fall into two 
groups; first, the terms ideas and intelligible world, which 
are used by him only with reference to the second stage of 
the existence of ideas; second, the terms powers. Logos, and 
Wisdom, which are used by him either with reference to the 
combination of the first and the second stage of existence 



or with reference only to the second stage. In the case of 
powers and Wisdom, they sometimes refer only to the first 
stage. Logos, Powers, and Wisdom, as we shall see later, 
are also used with reference to the third stage. Again, the 
term intelligible world is used by Philo as a description only 
of the totality of ideas, that is, of ideas in their restricted 
sense of patterns; the term Logos is used by him as a descrip- 
tion of both the totality of ideas and the totality of powers, 
that is, of ideas in the sense of both patterns and causes. 
Finally, according to a native Jewish tradition adopted by 
Philo, the powers of God are divided into two main classes, 
beneficial and punitive. The Logos, therefore, as the totality 
of powers as well as of ideas, is represented by him as the 
totality of both these types of powers which, expressed by 
him in figurative language, is said to be “in the middle” of 
the powers or is the “source” of the powers. 

The relation of God to the created Logos is conceived by 
Philo as that of cause to effect; the relation of the Logos to 
the intelligible world is conceived by him as that of the mind 
to its object of knowledge; the relation of the intelligible 
world to the ideas is conceived by him as that of the whole 
to its constituent parts. The interrelations of these terms are 
sometimes described by him as interrelations between the 
more universal and the less universal. God is thus described 
by him as “the most generic” without any qualification; the 
Logos is described by him as “the most generic of created 
things”; the ideas are described by him simply as “generic.” 
Sometimes, drawing upon the Aristotelian terminology, he 
describes the Logos — in its capacity as the mind of the intelli- 
gible world — ■ as the place of the intelligible world, by which 
he means that the two are identical and are distinguishable 
only in thought as the mind is distinguishable from its ob- 
ject of knowledge. Similarly God, in His relation to the ideas 


in their first stage of existence, when they are only thoughts 
of God, is described by him as “the incorporeal space of 
the incorporeal ideas.” But in His relation to the ideas as 
well as to the intelligible world and the Logos in their second 
stage of existence, when they are already created and real 
incorporeal beings distinct from God’s essence, God, accord- 
ing to Philo, cannot be described as their place; He can only 
be described as being “prior” to them, prior in the sense of 
being their cause. In one sense, however, God can be called 
the “place” of everything, and that is in the Aristotelian 
sense that “place” is that which contains, without being 
identical with that which is contained. For since God con- 
tains everything and is not identical with anything in the 
world. He may be called the place of the world as well as of 
everything within it. 

Finally, the Aristotelian forms, which have grown out of 
the Platonic ideas, are by implication described by Aristotle 
as “instruments,” in which description the term instrument 
is used in the sense of a form or pattern in the mind of the 
agent or artist or efficient cause. Similarly Philo, on restor- 
ing the forms of Aristotle to the status of the ideas of Plato, 
still retains for them the title instrument in the sense of pat- 
tern. And so the ideas and powers and the Logos and Wis- 
dom are all in various ways called by him instruments. But 
in the case of all of them, they are called by him instruments 
only in the sense of patterns; they are not called by him in- 
struments in the sense of intermediaries. 

Historically, one of the most important features of Philo’s 
revision of the Platonic theory of ideas is his application of 
the term Logos to the totality of ideas and his description of 
it as the place of the intelligible world, which in its turn 
consists of the ideas. 

In the subsequent history of philosophy, the Logos be- 



came separated from the intelligible world and the ideas, and 
came to be treated as something apart from them. As such 
it entered upon a new career in the history of the Christian 
doctrine of the trinity. From Christianity it passed on into 
Islam under the form of its orthodox theory of divine at- 
tributes. As integrally implicated in the problem of divine 
attributes, the Logos thus indirectly continued to exist as a 
problem also throughout medieval Moslem and Jewish 

With the separation of the Logos from the ideas and its 
emergence as a new problem of its own, the theory of ideas, 
too, emerged as a problem distinct from that of the Logos 
and came to be treated as such throughout the history of 
philosophy, though later it became better known as the 
problem of universals. Throughout the subsequent history 
of the theory of ideas the influence of Philo has been felt. If 
their existence is admitted, they have had to depend for their 
existence upon God. Oftentimes, as in Philo, three stages 
in their existence are distinguished. 

In his grand assault upon philosophy, Spinoza, by doing 
away with the entire conception of the existence of incor- 
poreal beings, does away also with ideas and an intelligible 
world and a Logos. Directly, Spinoza does not deal with any 
of these problems, except in so far as he mentions Plato’s 
theory of ideas,* in so far also as he refers to Jesus as the 
eternal son of God “ or as “ the idea of God,” ^ and finally 
in so far as he uses the same term, eternal son of God, as a 
designation of each of his two immediate infinite modes.'* 
Indirectly, however, all these problems are involved in his 
discussion of the problems of creation and divine attributes. 

* Short "treatise I, 6, § 7. 3 Ethics IV, Prop. 68, Schol. 

® Cogitata Metaphysica II, 10; Epistola 73. 4 Short treatise I, 9, §§ 2-3. 



In his discussion of the problem of the origin of the world 
Philo enumerates three views which were current in his time: 
the Aristotelian view that the world is eternal in the sense of 
its being both uncreated and indestructible,^ the Stoic view 
that this world of ours is one in a succession of worlds each 
of which is both created and destructible,* and the Platonic 
view that the world is created but not destructible.^ Of these 
three views, the Aristotelian view is rejected in so far as it 
affirms the uncreatedness of the world ^ but it is praised for 
its pious and religious spirit in so far as it affirms its inde- 
structibility; 5 the Stoic view is completely rejected; ® the 
Platonic view is declared to have been anticipated by 

(a) Criticism of Aristotle and the Stoics 

The rejection of the Aristotelian view of the uncreatedness 
of the world is on the ground that it “impiously” postulates 
in God “a vast inactivity.” * This Philo declares to be con- 
trary to the Mosaic teaching that “in existing things there 
must be an active cause and a passive object,” the latter of 
which is “in itself incapable of life and motion, but, when set 

* Aet 3, 7 and lo-ia; OptJ, a, 7; Conf, 23, 114; Somn, II, 43, 283. 

* Aet, 3, 8-9. 

3 Ibid, 4, 13-16. 

< Opif. 2, 7-1 1 ; cf. Somn, II, 43, 283. 

5 Aet, 3, 10. In Opif^ 2, 7, where Aristotle is criticized, his view is described as 
that which believes that the world is “uncreated and eternal** and similarly in Aet» 
3, 10, where he is praised, his view is described as that which believes that he 
world is “uncreated and indestructible.** But evidently the criticism in the former 
place is meant only for the “uncreated** part of his view and the praise in the latter 
place is meant only for the “indestructible** part of his view. 

Aet, 5, 20-9, 51. 7 Ibid, 5, 19. * Opif. 2, 7. 



in motion and shaped and endowed with life by mind, 
changes into the most perfect masterpiece, namely, this 
world.” ’ Now, it will have been noticed, the view which 
Philo ascribes to Moses and on account of which he rejects 
the Aristotelian theory of the uncreatedness of the world is 
only a restatement of Aristotle’s own view, and is even 
couched in Aristotle’s own terms. The distinction within 
existing things between active and passive is Aristotelian; 
the description of the passive as that which in itself is inca- 
pable of motion and hence of life is also Aristotelian;^^ and 
equally Aristotelian is the description of God as the one who 
sets the world in motion, and who sets it in motion as a mind 
and is its life.” Since Philo, therefore, uses the very words of 
Aristotle as a refutation of Aristotle’s own theory of the un- 
createdness of the world, we have reason to believe that the 
main point of his argument is that Aristotle’s theory of the 
uncreatedness of the world is somehow inconsistent with his 
own conception of God as a Prime Mover. But inasmuch as 
Philo only implies that there is such an inconsistency, with- 
out telling us what it is, we shall try to work out this impli- 
cation ourselves. 

Philo would seem to be arguing as follows: Aristotle him- 
self, despite his belief in the uncreatedness of the world, is 
compelled to admit the existence of a God, on the ground 
of the impossibility of an infinite series of movers and things 
moved. This God, according to him, is the cause of all the 
motions in the world. Now, being the cause of all the mo- 
tions in the world, God must certainly be more active than 
any of the other motive causes in the world. But among the 

5 Ibid. 2, 8-9. 

Fhys. VIII, 4, 255a5 12-15, The terms used, however, are not Aristotelian. 
« Phys. VIII, 4, 254b, 27-33; Be Gen. et Corr. II, 9, 335b, 29-31. 

Metaph. XII, 7, 1072a, 25 fF. 


motive causes in the world there are those which bring things 
into existence from non-existence, that is, those which pro- 
duce motion in the category of substance.^^ When Aristotle 
maintains, therefore, that the world is eternal and that God 
did not bring it into existence from non-existence, he makes 
of his God, whom he calls the Prime Mover, less of a cause 
than some of the other motive causes in the world, for, in 
comparison with those motive causes in the world which are 
capable of bringing things into existence from non-existence, 
his God is to be characterized by ''a vast inactivity/’ It is 
by such reasoning that St. Thomas tries to show that 
Aristotle’s immovable mover must be the cause of existence 
{causa essendi) to other things.^^ This argument, while prov- 
ing creation, would, of course, not prove creation ex nihilo^ 
for the motive causes in the world which bring things into 
existence do not bring them into existence ex nihiloy but 
rather out of something which serves as a sort of matter. 
But that is all that Philo wishes to prove by this argument, 
namely, that this world of ours did not exist from eternity. 

If our interpretation of this argument is right, then it can 
be shown that it is modeled after an argument for providence 
reproduced probably from the Stoics. The argument in 
question is as follows: ‘‘Those who grant that the gods exist 
must acknowledge that they perform some action {aliquid 
agere)y and that action an exalted one. But there is nothing 
more exalted than the administration of the world. Conse- 

^3 Categ.^ 14, 15a, 13-14. 

^4 Contra Gentiles II, 6 (a): Item, Ostendum est ( 1 . 1 , c. 13), per ratlonem ejus- 
dem, esse aliquod primum movens immobile, quod Deum didmus. Primum autem 
movens, in quolibet ordine motuum, est causa omnium motuum qui sunt illius 
ordinis. Quum igitur multa ex modbus caeli producantur in esse, in quorum ordine 
Deum esse primum movens ostendum est (ubi sup.), oportet quod Deus sit multis 
rebus causa essendi. It may be remarked that Aristotle, too, sometimes speaks of 
God as a “maker” rather than a “mover. ” Cf,, for instance, De Caelo I, 4, 271a, 33. 
This question is discussed in our introductory volume on Greek philosophy. 



quently the world is administered by the divine fore- 
thought.” All that Philo had to do to change this argu- 
ment for providence into an argument for creation was to 
start with the same major premise and then change the 
minor premise and conclusion to read as follows: “But there 
is nothing more exalted than the creation of the world. Con- 
sequently this world was created by God.” 

That Philo in his preceding argument has transformed an 
argument for providence into an argument for creation be- 
comes all the more evident when we consider that his next 
argument for creation in the same passage is based upon 
providence. “Those who assert that the world is uncreated,” 
he argues, “unconsciously eliminate that which of all incen- 
tives to piety is the most beneficial and the most indispensa- 
ble, namely, providence, for it stands to reason that what 
has been brought into existence should be cared for by its 
Father and Maker. . . . But between that which has never 
been brought into being and one who is not its Maker no 
such tie is formed.” The argument as phrased reads as if 
the belief in creation were with Philo a religious fiction neces- 
sary for the promotion of piety and of the belief in divine 
providence. But it is more than that. To Philo, the belief 
in providence ultimately rests upon creation, for the belief 
in providence is part of the belief in the possibility of miracles, 
and creation is the greatest miracle recorded in Scripture. 
Providence to him means individual providence, and indi- 
vidual providence is based upon the belief that God, by His 
sheer will, can miraculously change the order of nature 
which He himself has implanted in the world.'’' Now the 
creation of the world, as we shall see, is considered by 

Cicero, "De Natura Deorum II, 30, 76. 

Opif, a, 9-10. 

*7 Cf. below, p. 348. 

Philo as the strongest proof for the possibility of miracles 
and hence also for individual providence. In one place he 
combines those who deny the existence of God, those who 
deny the creation of the world, and those who deny divine 
providence into one group, characterizing them all as giving 
themselves to studies ‘‘directed against nature or rather 
against their own souV and also as declaring “that nothing 
exists beyond the world of our sight and senses, that it 
neither was created nor will perish, but is uncreated, im- 
perishable, without guardian, helmsman or protector/^ 
And so Philo, following his own view, transformed a Stoic 
argument for providence into an argument for creation. 

In another passage, evidently also referring to the theory 
of the uncreatedness of the world, Philo rejects this theory 
on the ground that it “combines as joint causes God and 
that which is created, two opposite natures like two different 
colors, whereas there is really one single cause, and that an 
efficient one (dpS)v),'* The point of this argument seems to 
be that, if we assume that God is only a cause of the motion 
of the world, then the world is independent of God for its 
existence and may therefore be considered as a joint cause 
with God for everything within the world, and God is there- 
fore not to be considered as the only efficient cause. 

The Stoic view he rejects by several arguments. One of 
these arguments, concerning which he says that it is hailed 
by countless people as “very exact and absolutely irrefu- 
table,"’ reappears subsequently in the history of philoso- 
phy. It tries to show that no adequate motive could be 
found in God for the successive destructions and construc- 
tions of worlds. If it were merely out of a desire to destroy 
worlds, then this is incompatible with the goodness and 

** Mos, I, 385 212; II, 48, 267; cf. below, p. 354. Leg. AIL III, 3, 7. 

^9 Somn. 11 , 43, 283. « Aei. 8, 39. 



immutability of the nature of God. If it were out of a desire 
to construct another world, then that other world would 
have to be either worse than the world destroyed, or sim- 
ilar to it, or better than it; but of these three possible as- 
sumptions the first is incompatible with the goodness of 
God’s actions, the second with the usefulness of God’s 
actions, and the third with the perfection of God’s actions," 
The argument is somewhat similar to that employed by Plato 
in showing that God could not change himself on the ground 
that He would have to change himself either into something 
better or into something worse, neither of which is conceiva- 
ble with reference to God.“^ 

(i>) Platons Timaeus and the Book of Genesis 

In adopting Plato’s view of the creation of the world on 
account of its agreement with the story of creation in the 
Book of Genesis, Philo also interprets the scriptural story of 
creation in Genesis in the light of Plato’s story of creation in 
the Pimaeus. The creation of the world was out of what he 
calls by the Aristotelian term matter or by the Stoic 

term substance (ovaia),^^ and describes by the Platonic term 
mother (jxiirrtp) or foster-mother {jpo^bs) or nurse (Ti6rivv)‘^ 
But with regard to that matter, it is not clear whether he 
considers it as created by God, or whether he considers it as 
coeternal with God. Interpreters of Philo differ on that 
point. Those who say that he considered matter as created 

Ibid,y 39-44; cf. a similar argument in Sallustius, Concerning the Gods and the 
Universe^ VII, by A. D. Nock (Cambridge University Press, 1926), pp. 12-15 and 

*3 Republic II, 381 b-c. 

Plant. 2, 5; Heres 32, 160. 

=3 Opif. 5, CLi; Plant, i, 3; Heres 27, 134; Somn. II, 6, 45. Cf. Leisegang, Indices^ 
sub otJcr^a, 3. 

Ebr. 14,61; ^u. in Gen. IV, 160; cf. above, p. 267, 


find support for their interpretation in such passages as those 
in which God is said to have brought into being “things that 
were non-existent” (rd /ii) or in which He is said to 

be “not only a Demiurge, but also a Creator (ktIo-ttjs)” and 
in which to create [creare) matter is said to be a property of 
Providence or in which matter is spoken of as having been 
created {'ikyovt ) Those who say that Philo considered 
matter as eternal argue that the term “non-existent” is used 
by Philo in a relative and not an absolute sense; that the 
statement that God is not only a Demiurge but also a Creator 
means that God is not only a Demiurge of the perceptible 
world but also the Creator of the intelligible world; that the 
passages in which the term creation is used in connection 
with matter are not statements of Philo’s own belief; that 
the terms which he most often applies to God are Craftsman 
(drjfiLovpyos), World-molder {Ko<rpoTr\a.<TT7]s)y and Artificer 
(rexJ'tTTjs), all of which imply the making of the world out of 
something.^" On the basis of all these considerations and 
from “his failure to speak of matter as created,” Drum- 
mond concludes his survey of the problem with the following 
words: “On a survey, then, of the whole evidence, I think 
we must conclude that Philo believed in the eternity of mat- 
ter.” The same conclusion is also arrived at by Neu- 
mark and Brehier.^s 

27 Opif^ 26, 81; Mut. 5, 46; Mos. II, 20, 100; cf. Somn. I, 13, 76. 

Somn, I, 13, 76; Spec. I, 5, 30. 

=9 C. G. L. Grossmann, §paestiones Philoneae, Lipsiae, 1829, 1 , p. 19, n. 70. 

3° Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica VII, 21, 336b. 

31 Drummond, I, 297-307. 

33 Idemy I, 300. 

33 Idemy I, 307. 

34 Cf. D. Neumark, ^oledot ha^Pilosofiah be-Yisra'ely 1 , 1921, p, 61. In his earlier 
German work, Geschichte der judischen Philosophie dec MittelaUerSy 1 , 1907, pp. 71- 
72, he has left the matter in doubt. 

35 Br6hier, pp, 80-82. So also J. Klausner in his From Jesus to Pauly p. 188. 



From our own survey of the whole evidence, however, we 
have come to the conclusion that no light can be thrown on 
Philo’s position on this question from his use of such terms 
as “non-existent ” or “ creator ” or “ create ” on the one hand, 
and “craftsman” or “world-molder” or “artificer” on the 
other. Nor can one determine his position on this question 
with the help of Scripture or post-scriptural Jewish tradition. 
With regard to the scriptural story of creation, one need not 
refer to the findings of modern critical scholarship that the 
creation story in Genesis reflects a view similar to that of 
Plato and that there is no suggestion in it of creation out of 
nothing. 5'* One has only to refer to the fact that in medieval 
Jewish philosophy some philosophers have found the scrip- 
tural story of creation quite compatible with the belief in a 
preexistent eternal and uncreated matter,^^ and, what is 
more important, support for such an interpretation was 
thought to be found in a Midrashic work. Those medieval 
philosophers evidently felt themselves much freer in their 
interpretation of the story of Genesis than Philo is assumed 
by Caird to have felt himself, for he solves the entire problem 
as to Philo’s view on the origin of the preexistent matter 
by stating that “in accommodation to Jewish notions, God 
must be supposed to create matter in which his ideas are 
realized.” Nor, again, can an answer to this question be 
found in post-scriptural Jewish literature already in existence 
by the time of Philo. In this literature, two conflicting state- 
ments are to be found. In the Wisdom of Solomon, on the 

3 ^ Cf. J. Skinner’s Genesis in ^he International Critical Commentary^ pp. 41—50, 

37 Cf. for instance, Judah ha-Levi, Cuzari I, 67; Maimonides, Morek Nehukim 

^ 5 > Gersonides, Milhamot Adonai VI, 2, i. The treatment of this view in Jewish 
philosophy has been discussed by the present writer in “The Platonic, Aristotelian 
and Stoic Theories of Creation in Hallevi and Maimonides,” Essays in Honour of 
the Very Rev, Dr, J. H Hertz [1942], 427-442. 

3 » Maimonides, Morek Nehukim II, 26, quoting Pirke de^Rahhi Eli'ezer^ Ch. 3. 

35 > E. Caird, Evolution of theology in the Greek Philosophers, 11 , 191. 


one hand, it is said that God “ created the world out of form- 
less matter”; ‘‘® in The Second Book of Maccabees, on the 
other hand, it is said that God made heaven and earth and 
all that is therein “out of things non-existent ” ovkovtuv).^^ 
But here, again, the question may be raised whether the 
“ formless matter ” was itself created or not, and also whether 
the “things non-existent” are absolutely or relatively non- 
existent. Similarly inconclusive is the position of Aristeas 
on this question. His argument that the deified heroes are 
not true gods because the useful things which they invented 
are only combinations of things already created but “they 
themselves did not make the construction (KaracrKeviiv) of the 
things ” does not necessarily imply that God’s creation of 
the world was ex nihilo-,^^ it means no more than what it says, 
namely, that the heroes merely took things which were al- 
ready constructed and made new useful combinations of 
them, whereas the Jewish God, being a true God, made the 
very construction of the world, but that construction may 
have been made out of a formless matter and not necessarily 
ex nihilo. If, therefore, an answer is to be found to the ques- 
tion of Philo’s position on the subject, it will have to be found 
in some passage in which he definitely and unmistakably 
states that the preexistent matter out of which the world was 
created was itself created by God. 

Such a passage, we believe, is to be found in his revision 
of the creation story of the limaeus. In that passage, either 

Wisdom of Solomon 1 1 : 17. 

II Macc. 7: a8, 

Aristeas, 136. 

D. Neumark, taking the term KaraaKevit in the sense of “matter,” derives 
from this passage in Aristeas a belief in creation ex nihilo iXokdot ka-PilosoJiah 
be-Yisralely I, p. 61). H. Andrews in Charles’s Apocrypha and Fseudepigrapha of 
the Old Testament translates the term similarly by “substance” and so does also 
H. St. J. Thackeray in his translation of the Letter of Aristeas in *dLhe Jewish 
^arterly Review, 15 (1903), p. 366. 



as an interpretation of Plato or as a departure from him, 
Philo, we shall try to show, has explicitly stated his view of 
the creation of matter. If students of Philo have failed to 
see it, it is because they have failed to see Plato through the 
eyes of Philo. Let us then start with Plato. 

Of Plato’s conception of the preexistent matter, as of 
everything Plato has said, there are a variety of interpreta- 
tions. The interpretation which we have arrived at and 
which we believe was the interpretation given to Plato by 
Philo may be outlined as follows. First, there is an unlimited 
void which is the abode of the ideas. We have already re- 
ferred to this and have shown how Philo criticizes and re- 

jects this view.'*'* Second, within that unlimited void, there 
is a limited void. It is this limited void that Plato calls re- 
ceptacle (vTToSoxri) or space (x<*)pa) and “mother” 
or nurse {Tidrjvt])^^ or fosteress (Tpo^os),'*^ and it is that in 

which {iv the world is to be created. Third, in that 

limited void there are copies or shapes (nopcpal)^'* 

or traces of the ideal four elements, which copies are 

“devoid of reason and measure.” It is from these copies 
of the ideal four elements ainCsvY^ that, according to Plato, 
the world was to be created. Fourth, the Demiurge trans- 
forms these copies of the ideal four elements into the four 
elements, and then out of these four elements®'* he creates the 
world.®® The principal feature in this interpretation of 
Plato is that the limited void called “receptacle” or “space” 

Cf. above, p, CI41. 

45 timaeus 50 d; 51 a; cf. also Aristotle, Fhys, I, 9, 192a, I4. 

4 ^ Timaeus 49 a; 52 d. 

47 Ibid, 88 D. SI Ibid. 53 b, 

48 Ibid. 49 e; 50 c. 52 Ibid. 53 A, 

49 Ibid. 50 c. 53 Ibid. 

Ibid. 52 D. S4 Ibid. 53 0-56 c. 

ss Ibid. 40 A-“40 c. More fully on this interpretation of Plato in our introductory 
volume on Greek philosophy. 


and the copies of the four elements within that limited void 
called “mother” or “fosteress” or “nurse” have both come 
to be regarded as preexistent matter, the one the matter in 
which the world was created and the other the matter from 
which the world was created. 

This is the general outline of Plato’s preexistent matter as 
it must have shaped itself in the mind of Philo. But within 
the outline of that picture there were three blurred spots, 
(i) Plato is inconsistent with regard to the origin of the ideas, 
nor does he make it clear whether the unlimited void where 
the ideas exist was created or not. (2) Nor, again, does he 
make it clear whether the limited void, that is, the matter 
in which the world was created, was created by God or 
existed from eternity. (3) Nor, finally, does he make it 
clear whether the copies of the four ideal elements within 
the limited void, that is, the matter from which the world 
was created, was created by God or existed from eternity: 
all he says about them is that they were stamped from 
the ideal elements “in a fashion marvellous and hard to 

In our presentation of Philo’s version of Plato’s theory of 
ideas we have shown how Philo has removed the first ambi- 
guity in Plato by abolishing outright the unlimited void in 
which the ideas were supposed to exist and also by declar- 
ing that the ideas were created by God.®'^ Here, in our pres- 
entation of Philo’s version of Plato’s story of creation, we 
shall try to show how Philo has similarly removed the second 
and third ambiguities in Plato, by declaring that the matter 
in which the world was created and the matter from which 
the world was created were both themselves created by God. 

The passage in which we find Philo’s removal of these two 

5 ^ Ibid, 50 c. 

57 Cf. above, pp. 241 f. and 204 f. 



ambiguities in Plato is his interpretation of the scriptural 
account of the things created on the first day of creation, 
which he takes to refer to the creation of the intelligible 
world or the world of ideas.^* As text for his interpretation 
he takes the three verses in the first chapter of Genesis: ‘‘In 
the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. And the 
earth was invisible and without form, and darkness was above 
the abyss \ and the spirit of God was borne above the water. 
And God said: ‘Let there be lights The seven italics 
zed words are taken by him to refer to seven ideal patterns 
of things constituting the corporeal world which was to be 
created in the subsequent five days/® “Heaven '' is explained 
by him as “incorporeal heaven,'’ by which he means the idea 
of fire, for elsewhere we find that in his enumeration of the 
four elements he uses the term heaven for the term fire/^ 

S* OpiJ. 7, 29; cf. 44, 129-130. S9 Gen. i; 1-3. 

The seven things which according to Jewish tradition were created prior to the 
creation of the world (cf. above, p. 183) are not the same as those enumerated here 
by Philo. The similarity is only in the number seven. Nor is there any evidence 
that Midrash Tadshe^ ch. 6, has used Philo’s statement here (cf. A. Epstein, “Le 
Livre des Jubil6s, Philon et le Midrasch Tadsch6,” Revue des Etudes Juives^ 21 
(1890), p. 83, and L. Cohn, Philos Werke, I, 36, n. 3). The main point in Philo’s 
statement here is that the seven terms in question mentioned on the first day of 
creation stand for the ideas of seven things which were to be created on the subse- 
quent days of creation. Midrash ’TadshOy on the basis of the scriptural narrative, 
enumerates twenty-two kinds of things that were created during the seven days of 
creation and among them, again on the basis of the scriptural narrative, it mentions 
the seven things that were created on the first day. 

A much closer analogy is to be found in the following statement in Exodus 
Rabbah 15, 22; ‘'Three things were created prior to the creation of the world — 
water, air, and fire. Water conceived and gave birth to darkness; fire conceived 
and gave birth to light; air conceived and gave birth to wisdom.” By taking the 
first three in this list to refer to ideas and the second three to refer to their corre- 
sponding obj ects, we have here a statement which is analogous to that of Philo in 
its main contention. Furthermore, by taking in this statement fire to mean heaven, 
and light to mean luminaries, and by taking also air to mean spirit, and wisdom 
to mean mind, we have here a still further analogy to two of the ideas and their 
corresponding objects mentioned by Philo. 

I, 3, 16; Mos. I, 20, 113; Spec. Ill, 20, iii; Conj. 27, 136. But see 
interpretation of “heaven” and “earth” in Leg, AIL I, i, i; 9, 21. 


“Earth ” is explained as “invisible earth,” that is, the idea of 
the element earth. “Darkness” is explained as the “idea 
of air,” and “water” is explained as “the incorporeal es- 
sence of water,” that is, the idea of water. “ Spirit of God ” 
is explained as “the incorporeal essence of spirit,” by which 
he means the ideas of mind and soul. “Light” is explained 
as “the incorporeal essence of light” and as “an incorporeal 
pattern, discernible only to the mind, of the sun and of all 
the luminaries which were to come into existence through- 
out heaven.” This corresponds to the idea of the celestial 

Thus six of the seven ideas created by God, according to 
Philo, on the first day of creation are the ideas of the four 
elements, the ideas of mind and soul, and the idea of the celes- 
tial bodies. This is indeed an interpretation of Genesis in 
terms of the ’Timaeus — not in terms of the 'timaeus as it is 
written, but rather in terms of the ‘Timaeus as it was under- 
stood by Philo. In the 'Timaeus as it is written there is no 
mention of an idea of mind and soul:®* there is reference 
there only to the ideas of the four elements, of which the 
idea of fire is mentioned explicitly,®^ and also to the idea of 
the celestial bodies.®'* Here Philo adds the idea of mind and 
soul.®5 Again, in the 'timaeus^ the ideas are definitely de- 
scribed as “eternal” ®® and as “uncreated,” and, with 
regard to the copies of the ideal four elements in the limited 
void, there is no statement whether, like the ideas, they are 

Cf. above, p* 213. 

<^3 timaeus 51 B. 

Cf. ibid, 30 c and 39 E-40 A. In these pass^es of the Timaeus there is refer- 
ence not only to the idea of the celestial bodies but also to the ideas of birds, fishes, 
and land-animals. The idea of man was created according to Philo on the sixth day. 
Cf. Opif, 46, 134; Leg, AIL I, 12, 31, in connection with Gen. i: 26. 

<^5 Cf. above, p. 214. 

Timaeus 29 a. 

Ibid, 52 A. 

3o8 PHILO 

uncreated or, unlike the ideas, they are created. Philo, how- 
ever, definitely says that the ideas of the four elements are 
created and consequently the copies of the ideal four ele- 
ments in the limited void are also created. Thus Philo has 
cleared up the ambiguity in Plato with regard to the copies 
of the ideal four forms, concerning which Plato only says that 
they were stamped “in a fashion marvellous and hard to 

But then, we shall now try to show, in his comment on 
the term “abyss” he clears up the ambiguity in Plato with 
regard to the origin of the limited void. The term “abyss” 
is explained by him as the “idea of void,” for “void,” he 
says, “is very deep and yawning” Now this 

“void,” identified as it is with an “abyss” which is “yawn- 
ing,” is reminiscent of Hesiod’s “chaos,” which literally 
means “gape,” “yawn,” and with which Plato’s “recep- 
tacle” or “space” is undoubtedly connected.^' Conse- 
quently when Philo speaks of the creation of the idea of void, 
he means that the idea of Plato’s “receptacle” or “space” 
was created and hence Plato’s receptacle or space itself was 
also created. 

We thus have in Philo a clear, though indirect, statement 
that the Platonic “receptacle” or “space,” that is, the mat- 
ter in which the world was created, was itself created by God. 
When that “receptacle” or “space” was created, God also 
created in it what Plato calls “copies” or “shapes” or 
“traces” of the ideal four elements, that is, the matter from 
which the elements and hence the world were created. Again, 
Philo does not mention directly the creation of the matter 

“ lUd. 50 0. "S' OpiJ. 7, ag. 

See Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy^ (London: A. & C. Black, igao), p. 7, n. l. 

p Cf. Zeller, II, i*, pp. 7ag-30 {Plato, p. 303); cf. also Act. 5, 18: “Chaos in 
Aristotle’s opinion is space.” For this identification of Hesiod’s “chaos” with 
“space,” see Phys. IV, I, ao8b, 30-33. 


from which the elements were created, but he alludes to it in 
his statement that God ‘‘created space (xw/sa) and place 
(tottos) simultaneously with bodies {craixaTa).”’^ By the 
term “bodies,” we take it, he means here both extended 
bodies — that is, the elements — and the copies or shapes or 
traces of the four ideal elements — that is, the matter from 
which the elements were created — for the term “body” has 
also the meaning of matter in the sense of its not being an 
ideaJ’ It is because of the double meaning of the term 
“bodies” used by him here that he uses the two terms 
“space” and “place,” meaning thereby that “space” was 
created simultaneously with the “matter from which,” 
whereas “place” was created simultaneously with extended 
bodies or the elements, for “place,” by its Aristotelian defini- 
tion, implies the existence of extended bodies d'* It is this 
“matter in which,” together with the “matter from which” 
contained therein, that Philo calls by the Aristotelian term 
matter,'^® by the Stoic term substance,’'® and by the Platonic 
terms mother, fosteress, and nurse.’’ It is also this twofold 
matter that he describes as shapeless (a/xopd'os),’® formless 
(dvetSeo?),’® figureless (dcrx'>7^idTtcrT05),®° indefinite (direipos),*' 
without quality (aTrotos),®^ and the like — terms which are 
the same as, or similar to, the terms used by Plato, Aristotle, 
and the Stoics as the description of matter. 

Having thus departed from Plato, or given a new interpre- 
tation of Plato, by making his receptacle as well as the copies 
of the ideal four elements contained therein created by God, 
he follows Plato faithfully in his description of the process of 

7 * Conf. 27, 136. 77 Cf, above, p- 300. 

73 Cf. Leisegang, Indices^ sub 2, 7^ Heres 27, 140; Spec. I, 60, 328. 

74 Cf. Pkys. IV, 4, 212a, 5-6. 79 Mut» 23, 135. 

73 Cf. above, p. 300. Somn. II, 6, 45. 

7 ® Cf. above, p. ^00. Spec. I, 60, 329. 

Opif. 5, 22; Heres 27, 140; Mut. 23, 135; Somn, II, 6, 45; Spec. I, 60, 328* 



the creation of the world. Out of these copies of the four 
ideal elements within the receptacle, both of which together 
he calls “matter” or “the substance of the world,” God 
formed the four elements.*^ These four elements “He laid 
down as first foundations, to be the sensible elements of the 
sensible world.” As in Plato, the elements are described 
by him as having certain geometrical figures.** From these 
elements, again as in Plato, God constructed the world.*® 
Philo’s interpretation of the story of the six days of crea- 
tion is thus as follows. On the first day, God created the in- 
telligible world of ideas, of which Scripture mentions specifi- 
cally seven ideas, namely, the idea of what Plato calls the 
“receptacle,” the ideas of the four elements, the idea of the 
celestial bodies, and the idea of mind and soul. Then He 
created a copy of the idea of the “receptacle ” and, within it, 
copies of the ideal four elements, both of which together con- 
stituted what is known as formless matter, out of which He 
created the four elements. Out of the element fire He then 
created, on the second day, the corporeal heaven; *^ on 
the third day, land and sea and trees and plants; ** on the 
fourth day, the sun and moon and stars; **’ and on the fifth 
day, aquatic animals and birds of the air.’“ Finally, on the 
sixth day. He created land animals,®* the mind of man or 
the ideal man,®* which is referred to in the first account of 
the creation of man,®® and the corporeal or individual man, 
which is referred to in the second account of the creation of 
man.®* This interpretation in his Be Opificio Mundi differs 
only in slight details from that in his other works. 

Herts 27, 133-135. 

Ibid. 27, 134. 90 Jhid. 20j 62-63, But see above, p. 206, n. 13. 

in Gen. Ill, 49. • 91 21, 64-66. But see above, p. 206, n. 13. 

Cher. 35, 127. 9i Ilfid, 23, 69-71. 

Opif. 10, 36-37, 9 i Xhid. 46, 134. 

Ibid. II, 38-13, 44. 9 a Gen. i; 27. 

Ibid. 14, 45-19, 61. 5 >s Gen. 2: 75 cf. OpiJ. 46, 134 ff. 


As in the case of the intelligible world — whose priority to 
the perceptible world was said by Philo to be not temporal, 
on the ground that time did not exist before the creation of 
the world — so also in the creation of the perceptible 
world he declares that it was not created “in time.”®’ 
Though occasionally Philo loosely uses such expressions as 
“there was a time when it was not,” or “ God . . . made 
things which before {irpoTepov) were not,” all such expres- 
sions merely mean to convey the idea that God brought the 
world “out of non-existence into existence.” ““ In sub- 
sequent discussions of this problem among medieval phi- 
losophers, as we shall see, this difficulty of language was 
overcome by the introduction of a sort of pseudo-time, 
independent of motion, before the creation of the world,"'®' 
so that one could be justified in using temporal expressions 
with reference to the world even before its creation. So also 
the succession of the six days of creation in Scripture is not 
to be taken as implying a sequence of time, for “all things 
took shape simultaneously (a/xa)” or “at once” 

The term six means “not a quantity of days, but a perfect 
number,”'®^ and that perfect number is used in the sense of 

9 ® Philo uses the following expressions in connection with time: '‘Time began 
either simultaneously with the world or after it** ippif, 7, 26). ‘‘Time is more 
recent than the world** {Leg, AIL I, 2, 2). “Time itself came into being with the 
world ** {Sacr, 1 8, 68). “ God is the maker of time also, for He is the Father of time’s 
father, that is, of the universe, and has caused the movements of the one to be the 
source of the generation of the other” {Immut, 6, 31). The movements of the world, 
according to Philo, “could not be prior to the objects moving, but must of necessity 
arise either simultaneously with the world or later than it’* iPpif, 7, 26). 

97 Leg, AIL I, 2, 2. 

9® DecaL 12, 58. 

99 Somn, 1 , 13, 76. 

^9® Mos, II, 48, 267. 

^9^ Cf. above, p. 217. 

^ 9 * Opif, 22, 67; cf. 3, 13. On the use of the temporal term “simultaneously** 
here see above, p. 216. ^93 2, 3. 



“order,” to show thereby that the world was created ac- 
cording to a certain perfect order and that it is to follow 
that order.”* 

His conception of the structure of the world is like that 
common at his time. With Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics 
he holds that there was only one world; but in his argu- 
ment for its oneness he disregards the elaborate arguments 
of Aristotle and draws upon the simple argument of Plato 
that there must be only one world because there is only one 
ideal model of the world,”' changing only the Platonic argu- 
ment from one ideal model to an argument from one Demi- 
urge “who made His work like himself in its uniqueness.” ”® 
Perhaps this change is also due to the influence of Aristotle’s 
argument for one heaven on the ground that if there were 
many heavens the moving principles would be many in num- 
ber.^”' With Aristotle he holds that outside the finite world 
there is no void, and he argues directly against the Stoics on 
this point.”" Whether he has also understood Plato’s “ super- 
celestial place” to refer to a void outside the world is a 
question which we have raised above.™ Again with the 
generally accepted view, he holds that this one world is 
spherical in shape and hence presumably finite, though he 
loosely describes the size of the spherical outermost heaven 
as being “of infinite magnitude” (AxeipojueT^flijs).'” At the 
center of the universe, like all his contemporaries, he places 


Ibid. 22, 67, ^imaeus 31 a~b; cf. above, p. 181. 

Ibid.^ 61, 171; Migr. 32, 180. OpiJ. 61, 171. 

Metaph. XII, 8, 1074a, 31-33. 

Heres 47, 228; Aet. 16, 78; 19, 102; Plant. 2, 7; cf. above, p. 241. 

Cf. above, p. 241. 

Hms 47, That the term bTreipofxeYkdns is used by Philo in the loose 

sense of immeasurably great, and not necessarily infinite, is evident from the expres- 
sion rd &Tr6tpofxeye97i hacrrijfxaTa (Mut. 33, 179). “Distances” within the world are 
even according to Heres §§ 227-229 finite in length. 


the earth.^^3 He does not, however, happen to say anything 
directly about its shape — it was still a question among the 
Stoics whether it was conical or spherical — nor does he 
say anything about the question as to its being at rest or in 
motion, which was an issue raised by Aristotle against 
Plato.^s There is equally no definite statement by him with 
regard to the question whether the heavens consisted of a 
fifth element; but from his use of the term heaven instead of 
fire in his enumeration of the four elements it may be in- 
ferred that he followed Plato and the Stoics, as against 
Aristotle, in making the heaven consist of fire, but, follow- 
ing the Stoics, he occasionally calls that fire ether.^^^ He 
follows the Stoic Diogenes of Babylon in adopting the Chal- 
dean system of the order of the planets rather than that of 
Philolaus and Plato, thus giving the order of the lower 
four planets, Sun, Venus, Mercury, [Moon],"^^^ instead of 
Venus, Mercury, Sun, Moon. In one passage he gives the 
order of these lower four planets as Sun, Mercury, Venus, 
Moon,^^® in which passage the transposition of Mercury and 
Venus may be taken as purely accidental, for his main pur- 
pose in giving the order of the planets in that passage is, as 
he himself says, to give his approval to the '‘conjecture’"’ of 
those "who assign the middle place to the sun and hold that 
there are three above him and the same number below 
him.” In his description of the motions of the various 

”3 Tlant, I, 3; Conf. 30, 156. Diogenes, VII, 144-145. 

Cf. ^imaeus 40 b; De Caelo II, 13, 293b, 30-32. Cf. E. Frank, Plato und die 
sogenannten Pythagoreer^ pp. 205 £F. 

Somn, 1 , 3, 16; Mos, I, 20, 113, and cf. 26, 143; II, 43, 238; Spec. Ill, 20, iii. 

^^7 Proem. 6 , 36; Mos. II, 50, 285, Cf. Drummond, I, 276, and full discussion of 
the problem on pp. 273-279. 

118 Cf, X, [L.] Heath, Aristarchus of SamoSy pp. 106-107. 

”9 Cher. 7, 22. Heres 45, 224. 

A similar statement that the sun occupies the middle place is to be found in 
Mos. II, 21, 103. 



spheres, which on the whole follows the commonly accepted 
view, he describes that revolution of the planetary spheres 
which is from east to west and in which they share in com- 
mon with the same kind of revolution of the sphere of the 
fixed stars, as being “under a compelling force” (Pe^i.aatJ.ivr]) 
and “involuntary” (dKoucnos).”® This evidently refers to the 
theory of “counteracting” spheres by which Aristotle ex- 
plains the participation of the internal spheres in the diurnal 
motion of the outermost sphere.’'®* 

As for the composition of the world, he denies the atomism 
of the Epicureans, believing in the infinite divisibility of mat- 
ter. In one place, in a homily on the verse “He smote the 
Egyptian and hid him in sand,” ““t he takes the Egyptian 
whom Moses smote to symbolize the two Epicurean doc- 
trines, “ the doctrine that pleasure is the prime and greatest 
good, and the doctrine that atoms are the elementary 
principles of the universe.” In another place, in a homily 
on the verse “he divided them in the midst,” he inter- 
prets it to refer to the Logos which in its capacity as Cutter 
{rofxeiis) “never ceases to divide, for when it has gone through 
all sensible objects down to the atoms and what are called 
indivisibles, it begins from them again to divide those things 
contemplated by reason into inexpressible and indescribable 
parts.” The meaning of this passage, we take it, is that 
those so-called atoms and indivisibles of the Epicureans, 
which according to them are discernible only by the mind, 
are really not indivisibles, for they qan be further and in- 
finitely divided by the mind. In view of this, then, when in 
still another passage the vagueness of the text makes it 
doubtful whether Philo means to say that atoms exist or 

Cher, 7j 22, I2S Pug, 26, 148. 

”3 Metapk, VII, 8, 1074a, i flF. Gen. 15: 10. 

*=*4 Exod. 2: 12. 127 Heres 26, 130-13 1. 


that they do not exist,"® that passage is to be interpreted so 
as to mean that atoms do not exist. 

Following Scripture and Plato, he conceives the act of 
creation as an act of will and design. The scriptural method 
of emphasizing the existence of will and purpose in the act 
of creation by saying that God created by His word or by 
His wisdom is followed also by Philo in his use of such ex- 
pressions as that the universe was made by the word (X67q))*®’ 
or by the wisdom {ao4>laY^° of God. Sometimes he describes 
the creation of the world more explicitly as an act which God 
willed (Pov\7]eeis).^^^ He quotes with approval, and also re- 
states in his own words, Plato’s statement that the final cause 
of the creation of the world was God’s desire to bestow His 
goodness upon the world and to make it most perfect.’'^’ 
But this perfection of the world, being only an act of God’s 
good will and not a necessary result of the perfection of His 
nature, is relative only to the beings for whom it was created, 
but it is not relative to the power of God who created it. If 
God willed, it was in His power to create a different world and 
a more perfect world. “Not in proportion to the greatest of 
His own bounties does He confer benefits — for these are 
without end or limit — but in proportion to the capacities of 
the recipients.” Our present world is so ordered that 
various living beings live in the various elements — in the 
water, in the air, in the earth, and even in fire — and, in 
the case of the amphibious creature, in more than one ele- 
ment. No living being lives in all the four elements. Still, 
“if the existent One had willed to employ His skill, by which 

^2® Jgr, 30, 134, See Colson’s note ad loc, (III, 491-492), where two possible 
interpretations of this passage are given, 

^39 SacK 3, 8 . 

*30 Heres 41, 199. Deter. 42, 154; cf. ‘Timaeus 29 d-e. 

"31 Opif, 6, 23. Opf. 6, 23. 

"32 Opij. 5, 21; Cher. 35, 125-127. ^ 3 ® Plant. 3, 12, 



He made amphibious creatures,” He could have changed 
the order of nature and created an animal capable of living 
in all the elements.^^® This is evidently in criticism of the 
philosophic view that “it is fixed and settled where each 
thing can grow and have its place,” so that “fishes cannot 
live in the fields. ” And, just as the world was created by 
the will of God, so also will it be saved from destruction by 
the will of God. Evidently reflecting Aristotle’s statement 
that “whatever is generated must be destructible” and 
Plato’s statement that the world, though generated, is in- 
dissoluble by the “consent” or “will” of God,^” he says with 
regard to the world that “ it has been generated, and genera- 
tion is the beginning of destruction, even though by the provi- 
dence of the Creator it may be made immortal.”"*® Unlike 
Plato, however, according to whom the “will” and “con- 
sent” of God by which the world is to be indestructible can 
never be changed even by God himself, Philo, as we shall 
see, assumes, as part of his belief in miracles, that God can 
always change His will for some good reason. With all his 
insistence upon the indestructibility of the world, he does 
not mean that God could not destroy the wprld if He had 
the will to destroy it. He only means that we can rely upon 
God’s promise that He would not destroy it. His vehement 
criticism of the Stoics for their belief in the destructibility of 
the world is primarily directed at their belief that the de- 
structibility of this world of ours as well as of all the other 
successive worlds must come about by the necessity of an 
inexorable fate. 

^ 3 ® Deter. 42, 1 54. 

^37 Lucretius, De Rerum Natura III, 784-787; cf. V, 128-131. 
^ 3 ® De Caelo 1 , 12, 282b, 4. 

Timaeus 41 a-b. 

*40 DecaL 12, 58. 


(c) PlacBy TCime^ Eternity 

In the course of his discussion of the creation and struc- 
ture of the universe Philo touches occasionally upon the 
staple philosophic problems of space and place 

(roTTos) and time and eternity (al6z^). Let us see 

what definite views he had on these topics. 

Philo does not deal directly with the problem of place and 
time, but whenever he happens to touch upon them he op- 
erates with material drawn indiscriminately from Plato, 
Aristotle, and the Stoics. Thus in one passage there is a 
disguised allusion to the use of space in the Platonic sense of 
the matter in which the world was created.^'^^ Similarly sev- 
eral allusions are to be found in other passages to Aristotle's 
definition of place as ‘‘the boundary of the containing 
body." So also does he make several allusions to the 
Stoic definition of place as that which is possessed {exi^p^vop) 
or occupied (fcarex^M^roz^) by a body,^^^ which he reproduces 
as being “a space filled (T€7rKr}po>fjLiv7j) by a body." As for 
the view with which he himself would agree, one thing is 
quite certain that he could not accept the Stoic definition of 
place. The Stoic definition implies that there is an infinite 
void outside the world and that part of that void is com- 
pletely filled by the world, and it is that part of the com- 
pletely filled void that is the place of the world, and similarly 
it is every part of that place of the world that is the place of 
every part of the world corresponding to it. But Philo does 

Conf, 27, 136, and cf. our discussion of this passage above, p. 309. 

142 p ^ iys , IV, 4, ai2a, 5~6; cf. Somn. I, ii, 63; Fug. 14, 75; JLeg. All I, 14, 44, 
and our discussion of this passage above (p. 349); also Con}, 27, 136, and our dis- 
cussion above on p. 309. Cf. H. Leisegang, Dz> Raumkhre im spdtern PlatonismuSy 
pp. 44-45. 

Arnim, II, 504 and 505. II, 6i\Fug, 14, 75 (bcTeTrhipcafjLh'Ti); cf. Colson on Fug, 14, 75; cf. 
also above, pp. 245, 248 ff. 

3i8 PHILO 

not believe in the existence of a void outside the world 
and consequently he could not accept the Stoic definition of 
place. In one passage, which seems to express his own ap- 
proved view on place, Philo says that “place was conceived 
{hvoridn) when bodies were at rest (jipeiwhvTOiv).” Now, at 
first sight, this statement would seem to be the opposite of 
the statement made by Aristotle that “the existence of 
place is held to be obvious from the fact of mutual replace- 
ment ” and also from “ the typical locomotions of the 
elementary natural bodies ” and especially his concluding 
statement that “place would not have been inquired into, if 
there had not been a special kind of motion, namely, that 
with respect to place.” But on a closer investigation it 
will be found that in the evidence for the existence of place 
from the “typical locomotions of the elementary natural 
bodies” Aristotle emphasixes not only the fact of their be- 
ing moved to the appropriate places but also the fact that 
they are at rest in those places. In one passage, referring to 
these “typical locomotions of the elementary natural 
bodies,” he says that “each of the bodies is naturally carried 
to its appropriate place and rests (p-iveiv) there.” In an- 
other passage he says that “it is reasonable that each kind 
of body should be carried to its own place” and “should 
rest (jiivei) naturally in its proper place.” In general, his 
own explanation of his definition of place as meaning that, 
“if a body has another body outside it and containing it, it 
is in place,” clearly shows that, while he considered 
motion as a factor in our becoming aware of the existence of 
place, it is the mere fact of the enclosure of bodies within 

^45 Plant. 2j 7; Heres 4% 228; Aet. 16, 78; 19, 102; cf. above, p. 241. 

Somn , I, 32, 187. ^so ms ,, IV, 4, 211a, 4-5. 

*47 Phys. IV, I, 208b, 1-2. ihid. IV, 5, 212b, 29'”30. 

^48 Ihid .^ 8-9. ^52 Ihid.^i 33. 

^49 Ibid. IV, 4 , 21 la, 12-13. IV, 5, 212a, 31-32. 


other bodies, without their being necessarily in motion, that 
enters into the definition of place and into the formation of 
our conception of what place is. And this is exactly what 
Philo means by his statement that “place was conceived 
when bodies were at rest.” 

In the passage just quoted Philo continues to say that 
“time was conceived when bodies were in motion.” In 
another passage he similarly says that “the world of our 
senses, when set in motion, has caused the nature of time to 
shine forth and to become conspicuous.” This reflects the 
view common to Plato and Aristotle and the Stoics 
that time is connected with motion. Formally, however, 
whenever he reproduces a definition of time, it is usually that 
of the Stoics that he reproduces, namely, “ time is the inter- 
val (Stdo-Tij/xa) of the motion of the world.” But this 
Stoic definition, it would seem, was considered by Philo as 
being merely a restatement in formal language of the Pla- 
tonic conception of time. Thus, in one passage, after quot- 
ing Plato to the effect that “time is indicated by days and 
nights and months and successions of years, and none of 
these can subsist without the movement of the sun and the 
revolution of the whole heaven,” he concludes, by refer- 
ring to the Stoics, that “thus people who are accustomed to 
define things have correctly explained time as the interval 
of the movement of the world.” He similarly follows 

'S4 Somn. I, 32, 187. 

Itnmut, 6, 32. 

‘Timaeus 37 0-39 e. 

IS7 Phys, IV, II, 219a, i~22oa, 26. 

Arnim, II, 509-521. 

Opif, 7, 26; Aet, 2, 4; 10, 52; Arnim, II, 509, p. 164, 1 . 33; 510, p. 165, L i; 
cL Colson on Opif, 7, 26; H. Leisegang, Hie Begrije der Zeit und Emgkeii im 
spdteren Platonismus^ p. 12. 

^^0 Aet, 10, 52; cf. iimaeus 37 e. 

Aet, 10, 52. 



Plato when, in his comment on the verse that the lights in 
the firmament of the heaven were created by God in order 
that they should be “for days, and years,” he says that 
one of the purposes for which the heavenly bodies were cre- 
ated was to distinguish “days and months and years, which 
are the measures of time, and which have given rise to the 
nature of number.” The particular passage in Plato re- 
flected in this statement is that in which Plato says that 
“ the sun and the moon and five other stars which have the 
name of planets have been created for defining and preserv- 
ing the numbers of time” and that “all living creatures 
for whom it was meet might possess number.” Again like 
Plato, with whom the linkage of time with motion has led 
to the conclusion that “days and nights and months and 
years were not before the heaven was created,” Philo 
also says that “time was not before the world,” and if 
Scripture says “In the beginning God made the heaven and 
the earth,” the expression in the beginning is to be taken 
not in a chronological sense but rather in the sense of its 
being first in the order of importance.^^® 

Time is thus inseparable from the motion of the world and 
like the world itself it was created. But to Philo as to Plato 
everything in the world is a copy of some ideal pattern and, 
therefore, since time is in the world, it must be a copy of 
some ideal pattern. What then is the ideal pattern of time 
to be called? Naturally one would expect it to be called 
the idea of time. But Plato has already selected the term 
aeon (aiiov), which literally means a space of time or a life- 
time or an age, but which is commonly translated by the 

^ Gen. 1: 14. 

opt/, 18, J5j cf. Leg. All. Ill, 8, 25; Fug, 10, 57; Mut. 47, 267. 

Timaeus 38 c. Opif. 7, 26. 

Ibid, 39 B. Gen. i: i. 

Ibid, 37 D. Opif,y^a 6 r-'iy\ cf. above, p. 215. 


term eternity, as a designation for what he should have 
called the idea of timed’*’ Philo has retained that term in the 
sense of the idea of time, though he still continues to use it 
quite often in the sense of time or lifetime or age or any 
space of timed’^ In its specific sense of the idea of time he 
says of “ eternity ” that it is “ the archetype and paradigm 
of time”'’* and of “time” that it is “a copy (jxlij.r)jia) of 
eternity,” which sayings reflect Plato’s statement that 
“the nature of the ideal was eternal” and that time is “a 
moving image of eternity.” In further explanation of 
eternity in the sense of the idea of time, Philo says that “the 
word eternity signifies the life of the intelligible world, as 
time is the life of the perceptible world,” with the under- 
standing, of course, that while the life of the perceptible 
world is motion, the life of the intelligible world is free of 
motion. Playing upon the name Father which is applied to 
God by both Scripture and Plato and conceiving of the 
intelligible world as the elder son of God and of the percepti- 
ble world as the younger son of God, he calls time, which 
arises only through the life or the motion of the perceptible 
world, the grandson of God.'” The term eternal, in its 
strictly technical sense, can thus apply only to motionless 
things, namely, God, the Logos, and the powers or ideas 

*70 Timaeus 37 d flr. 

^ 7 ^ For some examples of Philo’s use of the term aui)Vy not in the technical sense 
of “eternity” as opposed to “time” but rather in the common sense of time or 
some space of time, see Leg, All III, 8, 25; III, 70, 199; Sacr, ii, 47; 2i, 76; Plaut, 
27, 1 16; Ebr, 5, 24; 47, 195; Migr. 22, 125; Fug, lo, 57; Mut, 34, i85i Somn. II, 5, 
36*, Mos. I, 37, 206. 

=^72 Immut, 6 , 32; cf- Mut, 47, 267. 

^73 Heres 34, 165. 

^74 ^imaeus 37 d; cf. J, G. Muller, Juden Philo Buck von der JF^itschopfung^ 
p. 168. 

^^73 Mut, 47, 267, 

^ 7 ® Cf. above, p. 211. 

^77 Immut. 6, 31. 



which constitute the Logos. But the term eternal, as we 
have tried to show above, does not always mean with Philo 
ungenerated. Even the Logos and its constituent powers or 
ideas in their second stage of existence, which is a created 
existence, are sometimes described by him as eternal, which 
we have explained to be used by him in the limited sense of 
everlasting. Whether the Logos, and with it also the powers 
or ideas, all of which are described by Philo both as eternal 
and as generated, were conceived by him as having been 
eternally generated is a question which, if raised, could not 
be answered with certainty. To us, however, it seems that 
Philo could have no conception of “eternal generation,” for 
such a conception would be contrary to his view of the 
“aloneness” of God before creation, a view which implies 
that there was a time — to make use of this term here figura- 
tively — when God was alone and there was with Him, or 
by the side of Him, or coming into being outside of Him, no 
Logos or powers or ideas, though all of these were in His 
mind from eternity. The concept of “eternal generation” 
appears only later in Plotinus and in Christianity, and its 
appearance then is due to the fact that both Plotinus and 
those in Christianity who held this doctrine wanted to in- 
dicate thereby that there was no time when God was alone. 
We shall have occasion to deal with this problem more fully 
in our other volumes in this series of studies. 

{d) Conclusion, Influence, Anticipation 

In his discussion of the theory of creation, as presented in 
this chapter, Philo has added five new elements to his gen- 
eral statement, quoted in a previous chapter, that the crea- 
tion of the world is a cardinal principle of scriptural religion: 
first, his statement that the indestructibility of the world is 

^ 7 * Cf, above, p. 235, Cf. above, p. 172. 


an essential creed of scriptural religion; second, his arguments 
against Aristotle's belief in the uncreatedness of the world; 
third, his arguments against the Stoic theory of the succes- 
sive creations and destructions of worlds; fourth, his view 
that the preexistent matter out of which the world was 
created was itself created by God; fifth, his view that if God 
willed He could have created a world different from ours. 

In the subsequent history of philosophy some of these 
five points were rejected while others were accepted. First, 
the belief in the indestructibility of the world was not gen- 
erally considered as an essential element in religion.^ Sec- 
ond, though in later history the arguments against the 
uncreatedness of the world became more elaborate, the es- 
sential criticisms raised by Philo are discernible as the basis 
of some of the subsequent more elaborate arguments. Third, 
the Stoic view of the successive creations and destructions 
of worlds, which is rejected by Philo, was with certain modi- 
fications, either accepted or regarded as compatible with 
Scripture by some Christian,^ Moslem,^ and Jewish ^ phi- 
losophers, but some of his arguments against it were repeated 
by those who, like St. Augustine, rejected it.^ Fourth, his 
revision of Plato's view of the preexistent matter by making 
it created was followed by many of those in Christianity who, 
like Tatian,^ Theophilus,^ and St. Augustine,^ adopted the 

^ Cf. MaimonideSj Moreh Nehukim II, 27. 

* Origen, De Principiis II, 2, 4-5. 

3 Cf. reference to Muhammad ai-Baqir and Ibn al-Arabi in Muhammad AH's 
translation oj the Holy ^aran^ Lahore, 1928, p. Ixxv. 

^ Judah ha-Levi, Cuzari I, 67. The treatment of the theory of the creation of 
successive worlds in Jewish and Moslem philosophy as well as in Origen and St. 
Augustine is discussed by the present writer in “The Platonic, Aristotelian and 
Stoic Theories of Creation in HaUevfand Maimonides," in Honour ojthe V try 

Rev. Dr. J. H. Hertz^ [i94^iL 427-442. 

5 De Civitate Dei XII, 17. 

^ Oratio adversus Graecos, ch. 5. 

7 Ad Autolycum II, 4. * Confessiones XII, 8. 



Platonic theory of a formless matter out of which the world 
was created. However, there were some who found that 
creation out of an eternal preexistent matter was compatible 
with Scripture ’ and many others who insisted upon creation 
directly ex nihilo.^° Fifth, his view that if God willed he 
could have created a different world is discussed in the works 
of many subsequent philosophers, Moslem,” Jewish,” and 

Spinoza in his assault upon traditional philosophy rejects 
all theories of creation, including creation out of a preexistent 
matter,^'* and returns to the Aristotelian conception of the 
eternity of the world. He also comes out directly against the 
view, first expressed by Philo, that the world could have been 
ordered to be otherwise than it now is.*® 

9 Cf. above, n. 33. 

As, e.g., Maimonides, Moreh Nebukim II, 13; St. Thomas, Summa ^heohgka 
1.45, I- 

“ Cf. discussion of the Ash' arite view on this point in Algazali, Tahajut aU 
Fala^ijah I, § 28 (ed. Bouyges); Averroes, Kitab KashJ *an-Mandhij in Muller’s 
Philosophic und Rheologic von Averroes^ p. 84; Maimonides, Moreh Nebukim I, 73 

(10), 74 (5); H. 19- 

“ Maimonides, Moreh Nebukim 11 , 19; cf. II, 17. 

^ Abelard, theologia Christiana V (PL, 178, 1321A), St. Thomas, Summa theo- 
logka I, 25, 6, 

Spinoza’s criticism of traditional theories of creation is discussed by the 
present writer in the chapter on "Unity of Substance” in ^he Philosophy of Spinoza. 

Ethics^ I, Prop. 33; Short f reatkcy 1 , 4, § 3 and § 7; cf. The Philosophy of Spinoza, 
ad loc. 



1 . Immanent Logos 

Following the view generally held by Greek philosophers, 
with the exception of the Epicureans, Philo maintains that 
the order of the world is determined by certain immutable 
laws of causality. Now these laws of causality were generally 
explained by all those who admitted their existence as being 
due to what they all called God, but their conception of that 
God differed on certain essential points. To Plato, God is an 
immaterial being who, prior to His creation of the world, had 
existed from eternity without a world and, when He willed 
to create the world, implanted in it a soul which contained 
a mind to govern it according to certain immutable laws. It 
is God, therefore, who has implanted these laws in nature 
and it is a universal soul which administers these laws.* To 
Aristotle, too, God is immaterial, but He has existed from 
eternity together with the world, being therefore not the 
creator of the world but only the cause of its motion; and, as 
the cause of its motion, He is also the cause of the immutabil- 
ity of these laws of motion which proceed from Him.=* To the 
Stoics, in opposition to both of them, God is something 
material, who from eternity has existed as an active princi- 
ple in the eternal primary fire, out of which He himself 
created this world of ours. Within this world even after its 
creation, according to them, God has remained as an active 
material principle, whom they describe as the Logos * or the 

^ CL below, p. 427. 

^ Cf. Metaph, XII, cc. 7 and 10. 

3 Diogenes, VII, 134. Cf. also Arnixn, Index, under X6yos, p. 70, col a. 



seminal Logos (Koyos crTepixaTiKos) of the world/ or the mind 
(j/oOs) of the world/ or the soul {^vxn) of the world/ and 
whose extension throughout the various parts of the world 
they describe again as the Logoi or the seminal Logoi/ or as 
the Powers (dwapeis)^ of God. It is this internal material 
principle that they regard as the cause of the immutable 
laws of nature. Philo^ as we have seen, rejects the Aristo- 
telian conception of God on the ground of its incompatibility 
with the scriptural conception of God as a creative, and not 
merely as a motive, cause of the world.^ He rejects also the 
Stoic conception of God on the ground of its incompatibility 
with the scriptural conception of God as an incorporeal be- 
ing. His conception of God is like that of Plato, a being who 
is both incorporeal and creative. But, as we shall see, he 
does not follow Plato in ascribing a soul to the world as a 
whole,^^ and consequently he does not use the Platonic vo- 
cabulary of ascribing the immutable laws of nature to a 
world-soul. He does follow, however, Plato’s description of 
the ideas as being not only patterns {irapahdyiiaTo) apart 
from the world, of which things in the world are only imi- 
tations {pip't](ras)y^ but as being also in the world through 
their presence {rapovaia) in it, through their communion 
(Koivcovla) with it, and through the participation (peBe^is) of 
things in them.^^ Accordingly, to Philo the ideas or powers 
or, as he describes them in their totality, the Logos, after 

4 Idem,, VII, 136 (Arnim, I, 102). 

s Aetius, I, 7, 23 (Diels, p. 303, 1 . iij Arnim, I, 157). 

Aetius, I, 7, 17 (Diels, p. 302b, 1 . 15; Arnim, I, 532; III, 31). 

7 Arnim, I, 497; II, 1027. 

* Diogenes, VII, 147, 

9 Cf. above, pp. 295 ff. 

Cf. above, p. 176. 

“ Cf. below, pp. 360-361. 

So in the Philebus^ Parmenides, neatetus. Sophist, PoUticus and Timaeus; 
cf. J, A. Stewart, Plato's Doctrine of Ideas, p. 8, and cf. above, p. 233. 

^3 So in the Phaedrus, Phaedo and Republic; cf. Stewart, loc, cit. 


having served as patterns on which God modeled the world, 
were introduced by God into the world to act within it as 
the immutable laws of nature. 

Here then we have in Philo a third stage in the existence 
of the Logos, as well as of the powers, no longer a Logos in the 
sense of a property of God nor a Logos in the sense of the to- 
tality of the created incorporeal powers, but a Logos in the 
sense of the totality of the powers of God existing within the 
world itself. This Logos or powers within the world itself, 
being so much like the Logos or powers of the Stoics which 
are only within the world, is as a rule described by Philo in 
terms borrowed from the Stoic vocabulary. Still, it is not the 
same as the Stoic Logos. The Stoic Logos is something ma- 
terial; its residence in things is conceived as an intermingling 
with matter; it is identified with what they call God, and 
beyond it there is nothing superior. The immanent Logos 
of Philo, however, is conceived as something immaterial, be- 
ing only an extension of the preexistent incorporeal Logos; 
it resides in things after the analogy of the residence of 
Plato’s rational soul in body and somewhat also after the 
analogy of the residence of Aristotle’s form in matter. But 
beyond it there is God. In order that it may not be con- 
fused with the Stoic Logos, which is material and always in 
the world and is identified with God, Philo takes great pains 
to emphasize, whenever he happens to speak of this imma- 
nent Logos, that it is merely another stage of the existence of 
the same incorporeal Logos which is apart from the world 
and that beyond it there is a God who is not immanent in the 
world. While the residence of the Logos in the corporeal 
world is conceived by him, as we have said, after the analogy 
of the residence of Plato’s preexistent mind or soul in the body 

Cf. Zeller, III, 1^, p. loi, n. l {The Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics^ p. 105, 




of the world, still Philo never describes the immanent Logos 
as the mind or the soul of the world. His immanent Logos, 
while performing the same functions as Plato’s or the Stoics’ 
world-soul, is not a world-soul. The expressions mind of 
the world and soul of the world, taken from the Stoics, are 
indeed used by him, but they are used by him not in the 
Stoic sense as a description of the immanent Logos but rather 
as a description of God above the Logos, and therefore, as 
we shall see, they are used by him only as a figure of speech 
and not in their original Stoic sense.*® 

Let us now examine the texts in Philo upon which the pre- 
ceding observations are based. We shall try to knit together 
his scattered statements into a connected story. 

To begin with, he says, “ the natures of the heavenly bodies 
and movements of the stars” as well as “the vast number 
of other operations in nature” to which they extend “are 
invariably carried out under ordinances and laws laid down 
in the universe as unalterable.” *"* Using the Pythagorean 
term equality (lcr6T7js)*7 as a description of the perfect order 
(ic6(rjuos) of the universe, corresponding to democracy in 
states, health in the bodies, and virtuous conduct in souls,*® 
he says that “all things in heaven and earth have been or- 
dered aright by equality under immovable laws and ordi- 
nances.” *’ Again, using the Stoic analogy of the universe to 
a state, or, as he calls it, “a great city,” he says that “it has 
a single constitution and a single law.” But, just as in 
agreement with the Stoics he emphasizes the existence of 
immutable laws in the universe, so also in opposition to them 
he emphasizes his disagreement with their view that these 
laws are to be attributed to a God who is within the universe 

« Cf. below, p. 245. OpiJ. 19, 61. 

Spec. IV, 42, 231. See Colson and Heinemann (Philos Werke) ad loc. 

Spec. IV, 42, 237. w Spec. IV, 42, 232, » Jos. 6, 29. 


and part of it. He is especially opposed to their description 
of God as fate (dixapnevr])." Criticizing the Stoics, as is his 
wont, under the guise of Chaldeans, the people among whom 
Abraham was born and from whose influence he later freed 
himself, he is opposed to them on the ground that “they 
made fate and necessity into gods,” imagining “that this 
visible universe was the only thing in existence, either being 
itself God or containing God in itself as the soul of the 
whole” and “teaching that apart from the things in the visi- 
ble world there is no originating cause of anything what- 
ever.” “ He similarly maintains that while Moses was ac- 
quainted with the Stoic teaching that “causes have their 
sequence, connexion and interplay,” ’’ he did not represent 
“ fate and necessity as the cause of all events.” 

Still, following his general method of making use of popular 
terms and expressions in some changed meaning, he does not 
hesitate to use the word “ fate,” in the sense of the unalter- 
able laws of nature, provided it is understood that these laws 
depend upon God as their ultimate cause. Thus in his hom- 
ily on the verse “Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the 
seal-ring, the cord, and the staff,” he takes the term “cord” 
to refer to “the world-order, fate, the correspondence and 
sequence of all things, with their ever-unbroken chain,” but 
makes them all belong to God alone.*® So also does he not 
hesitate to speak of a journey “appointed by fate,” or 
awaiting “the end of one’s fate,”*® or of a man dying as 
being “carried off by fate.” ** So also does he speak of the 
length of the life of men as being “according to the fixed rule 

” Aetius, I, 27, 6 (Diels, p. 322b, 11 . 13-14; Arnim, III, 35). 

“2 Migr . 32, 179, 

Heres 6o, 301, 

Ibid .^ 300. 

Gen. 38: 25. 

Mut , 23, 135. 

*7 Frobus lyy III 
=* F/ac. 21 y 180. 
“9 Legaf, 4y 25. 



of fate,” even though according to his own belief it is God 
who fixes the limit of human lifed^ The “fixed rule of fate ” 
evidently reflects Aristotle’s order (r&^cs) which determines 
the length of life of living beingsd^ As with the term fate so 
also with the term fortune he has no objection to us- 

ing it, provided one means by it divine providence. Speak- 
ing of the rise and fall of nations which, of course, he attrib- 
utes to a divine law in nature or the immanent Logos, he says 
“ circlewise moves the revolution of the divine Logos which 
most people call fortune.” So also does he say that “op- 
portunity (Kaipds) is looked upon by the wickedest of men 
as a god ” or “ as the cause of things in the world, but by wise 
men and virtuous men opportunity is not looked upon in this 
light, but God only, from whom all opportunities and seasons 
proceed.” In another place he says of “opportunity ” that 
it is “the minister (orados) of God.” It is in this sense that 
we are to understand any such statement of his as that in 
which he says that “the man of worth who surveys not only 
human life but all the phenomena of the world knows how 
mightily blow the winds of necessity, fortune, opportunity, 
violence and authority.” Plato went only so far as to say 
that “fortune and opportunity cooperate with God in the 
government of human affairs.” 

Then, as the immediate cause of these immutable laws of 
nature Philo has decided to use the term Logos, probably for 
the mixed reason that in Scripture the forces of nature are 
said to operate at the bidding of the word or the Logos of 
God and also that that is one of the terms used by the 
Stoics.*® But inasmuch as he has already used the term 

in Gen, 1 , 100. 

Ibid. I5 91; cf. Shahbat 30a on Ps, 39: 5-6. 

32 De Gen. et Corr, II, 10, 336b, 10-13. 

33 Immut. 36, 176, 

34 in Gen, I, 100; Harris, Fragments^ p, 19, 

33 Migr, 2!2, 126. 

3^ Somn, II, 12, 81. 

37 Laws IV, 709 B. 

3 ® Ps. 147: 18; 148: 8. 
»» Cf. above, p. 231. 


Logos as a description of the totality of the ideas or powers, 
it is necessary for him to point out the difference between the 
terms Logos used in that sense and the term Logos which he 
is now to use as a description of the immediate cause of the 
laws of nature in the created visible world. This distinction 
is made by him in a passage in which he says that “The 
Logos is twofold as well in the universe as in human nature; 
in the universe there is (a) that Logos which deals with the 
incorporeal and archetypal ideas from which the intelligible 
world was framed, and also (b) another Logos which deals 
with the visible objects which are the copies and likenesses 
of those ideas and out of which this sensible world was pro- 
duced.’’ The difference between these two types of Logos 
is then this : Logos in the first sense refers to what, accord- 
ing to our interpretation, is the second stage in the existence 
of the Logos, that is, the antemundane Logos alter it had 
emerged from God and become, through an act of creation, 
an incorporeal being with an existence of its own. Logos in 
the second sense refers to a third stage in the existence of 
the Logos, when, with the creation of the world, it became 
incarnate in the body of the world, in the same way as a soul 
or a mind becomes incarnate in the body of an individual 
living being. In its second stage, the Logos is the instru- 
ment of the creation of the world; in its third stage, it is 
the instrument of divine providence or of the preservation 
of the world, for “without toil He made this vast universe 
long ages ago, and now without toil He holds it in perpetual 
existence”; and it is through the immanent Logos, which 

40 Mos. II, 25, 127. 

Cf. above, p. 327. For various other interpretations of this twofold Logos, 
see Dahne, I, pp. 208-212; Gfrorer, I, pp. 176-179; Heinze, Die Lehre von Logos, 
pp. 231-234; Zeller, III, pp. 423-424; Drummond, 11 , pp. 171-182. 

Cf. above, pp. 261 ff. 

Sacr. 7, 40. 



is “the indissoluble bond of the universe,” that the world 
is held in perpetual existence,''® Then, again, with reference 
to the Logos in its second stage, the world is said to be an 
imitation {fiiixrjfia) of it; with reference to its third stage, 
the world is said to be its raiment {eadijs). Thus, in his 
homily on the verse concerning the high priest, in which it 
is stated that he is consecrated “ to put on the garments,” 
he says that “ the garments which the most ancient Logos of 
the existent puts on as a raiment is the world, for it arrays 
itself in earth and air and water and fire and all that comes 
forth from these.” He compares the Logos as clothed with 
the world to soul as clothed with the body and to the intel- 
lect of the wise man as clothed with the virtues. Let us 
keep this phraseology in mind. When we come to our dis- 
cussion of Christianity, we shall see the significance of this 
comparison of the world as the clothing of the Logos to the 
body as the clothing of the soul. 

11 . Laws of Nature 

With his recognition of the existence of laws of nature and 
his decision to describe the cause of these laws of nature by 
the term Logos, he undertakes to tell us what these laws of 
nature are, and in accordance with these laws of nature to 
classify various types of their cause, the immanent Logos. In 
various passages he touches upon various laws of nature 
drawn from various sources in Greek philosophy, but taken 
together they show that Philo conceived of three definite laws 
of nature. 

The first law of nature is the law of opposites. As described 

Plant, 2, 9; cf. belowj p. 339. Opif, 6, 25. 

45 IMd, 2, 10. 47 x^v. ai: 10. 

4* Fug, 20j 1 10. That he deals here with the immanent Logos is evident from 
§ ii2j where he speaks of the Logos as the bond of existence. 

49 Ibid, 


by Philo it means that all things in the world are divided into 
two parts which are equal though opposite.* The character- 
istic expressions used by him are that, in the creation of the 
world, God divided all things equally “according to all 
forms of equality,” * so that “no section is greater or less than 
another by even an infinitesimal difference, and each can 
partake of the equality which is absolute and plenary,” ^ but 
these equal parts are opposites, for “ everything in the world 
is by nature opposite to something else.” “The subject of 
division into equal parts and of opposites,” he says, “is a 
wide one”; * and he goes into a full description of such divi- 
sions, starting with the infinite divisibility of matter and going 
through all the realms of nature, of man, of mind, and of 
society.® That which causes the division is the immanent 
Logos, who “never ceases to divide,” on which account he 
calls it “the cutter” (ronevs).'’ Since Philo uses the terms 
Logos and Wisdom as equivalents,* he also distinguishes 
within Wisdom an incorporeal Wisdom and an immanent 
Wisdom, and therefore he sometimes attributes the function 
of dividing things into opposites also to the immanent Wis- 
dom. Thus, in his homily on the verse “And they returned 
and came to the spring of judgment en-mishpat, wrjjfip rfjs 
Kpicrem) which is Kadesh,” ’ he says: “One might think that 
it cries aloud that the Wisdom of God is both (i) holy, con- 
taining no earthly ingredient, and (2) a sifting of all the uni- 
verse, whereby all opposites are separated from each other.”” 
The implication of this is that Wisdom which, like the Logos, 

“ ffares 47, 133-48, ^3^- 

» Ibid. 29, 146. ■* Ibid. 43, icrj. 

J Ibid. 48, 143. s Ibid. 47, 133. 

* A study of the sources of these detailed divisions is to be found in Goodenough, 
“A Neo-Pythagorean Source in Philo Judaeus,” Yale Classical Review, 3 (1932), 

’ Heres 46 , 130. 

• Cf. above, p. 455. 

’ Gen. 14: 7. 

” Fug. 3S, 196. 



is the totality of the ideas in the intelligible world,” is, in its 
sense of “judgment,” again like the immanent Logos, also 
the principle of the division of things in the world into oppo- 
sites. The significance of his identification of Wisdom in the 
sense of “judgment” (Kp/vts) with the immanent Logos as 
the principle of division of things into opposite and equals 
is his statement elsewhere in the name of “the masters of 
natural philosophy” that “equality is the mother of justice” 
{hKaioffhvqs ) for judgment and justice {Ukt)) are 

considered by Philo as identical.^^ 

This theory of the divisibility of things into opposites is 
ascribed by Philo to Heraclitus,^'* and he refers to it as 
Heraclitus’ “opinions concerning opposites” {sententiae de 
contrariis).^^ Now in the extant sources in which Heraclitus’ 
theory of the opposites is stated,’'^ no mention is made that 
the division of things into opposites is done by the Logos. 
In fact, modern scholars have raised the question whether 
the term Logos which is used by Heraclitus means a uni- 
versal principle or whether it only means the discourse of 
Heraclitus himself.^’ Similarly, the Stoics who happen to 
speak of the division of things in opposites, like those men- 
tioned by Philo, do not definitely say that it is the Logos 
which does the dividing. As an explanation of the origin of 
Philo’s description of the Logos as the principle of the division 
of things into opposites, several possibilities suggest them- 
selves. First, it is possible that only the theory of opposites 

” Cf. above^ p, 255. 

« S'pec, IVj 42 j 231; cf. FlanL 28, 122; Heres 33, 1635 and below> II, 391. 

^3 MuU 36, 194. 

Heres 43, 214; in Gen, III, 5. 

^5 in Gen. Ill, 5. 

Cf, Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker^ “Wortindex,’* under kpavrlosf 


17 Cf. J. Burnet, Early Greek Philos ophy^, p. 133, n. i. 

Cf. exanaples in Br^hier, p. 87, n. 2. 


is attributed by Philo to Heraclitus, whereas the theory that 
the Logos is that which does the dividing is the application of 
his own view of the Logos to Heraclitus’ theory of the op- 
posites. Second, it is possible that Philo had before him cer- 
tain writings of Heraclitus, to which he refers as “ Books on 
Nature” (Lih-i de Natura)^^ in which there was a statement 
to the effect that the Logos was the principle of the division 
of things into opposites. Third, it is also possible that Philo, 
like other ancient authors, understood Heraclitus to have 
used the term Logos in the same sense as it is used by the 
Stoics, namely, as the active principle within the world, and 
that then, out of various other statements in both Heraclitus 
and the Stoics about the division of things into opposites and 
about the primitive fire, he has drawn his own inference that 
it must be the Logos which does the division. For, according 
to both Heraclitus and the Stoics, fire is the primitive matter 
out of which all things arise.“ Out of fire, then, all the op- 
posite things in the world arise. Now within fire there are, 
according to the Stoics, an active and a passive principle, and 
the active principle, among the other names by which it is 
called, is also called by the name of Logos.*" Therefore, Philo 
must have concluded, the active principle or Logos is that 
which causes the division of things into opposites.** 

The term “cutter,” however, which he applies to the im- 
manent Logos acting in its capacity of a divider of things into 
opposites, does not seem to have been derived from Heraclitus 
or from the Stoics. It would seem to be of scriptural origin, 

« in Gen. Ill, 5 end, and cf. Heres 27, 133. 

Diogenes, IX, 7-9; VII, 142. 

« md., VII, 134. 

« With this compare discussions on this subject inHeinze, Lehrevom Logos 
(1872), pp. 226-229; Bousset, yudisch-ChristUcher Schulhetruh in Alexandria und 
Rom (1915), pp. 23-30; Br6hier, pp. 86-89; Goodenough, ‘‘A Neo-Pythagorean 
Source in Philo Judaeus,” Yale Classical Studies 3 (^ 93 ^)j 



derived from certain verses in Scripture which Philo inter- 
preted as anticipations of Heraclitus’ theory of opposites, 
One of these verses, which in the Septuagint reads: “The 
plates of gold being cut into hairs,” is quoted by 

Philo as “ the plates of gold he cuts (jinvei) into hairs,” 
taking the subject “ he ” to refer to the Logos. Another verse 
which in the Septuagint reads “he divided {SieTKev) them 
(aird.) in the middle and placed them (aiira) facing opposite 
each other,” “s is paraphrased by Philo, evidently under the 
influence of the original Hebrew text, by “and the parts 
cut off (rd Tniiixara) he placed facing opposite each other.”’* 
But as in the case of his use of the term Logos in the sense 
of an immanent principle in general, so also now, in the case 
of his use of it in the special Heraclitean sense, he makes it 
clear that he is conscious of the fact that Heraclitus does not 
believe in the existence of an immaterial God outside the 
world and above the Logos, and accordingly he openly re- 
pudiates Heraclitus, declaring a “bad man” him “who de- 
rives every thing from the world and makes it return to the 
world, who imagines that nothing has been created by God, 
who is a follower of the opinion of Heraclitus, advocating 
such tenets as ‘fullness and want,’ the ‘universe one,’ and ‘all 
things interchange.’ ” ’’ While the Logos to Philo may in- 
deed be described as the divider, it is a divider only by virtue 
of its being used by the unshowable God; in reality it is the 
Creator who does the dividing,’® and “ God alone is exact in 

« Exod.39:3(LXX36:io). 

Heres 26, 13 1, 

*5 Gen. 15: 10. 

See Philo’s quotation of the last part of Gen. 15; 10 in Heres 43, 207. The 
substitution of rA rixiiiiara for ahra would represent the Hebrew lina The 
verse is quoted by him as in the Septuagint in in Gen. Ill, 5, but, as in Heres 
43, 207, the second is omitted. 

Ill, 3, 7. 

Heres 26, 130. 

IHd.y 27, 133; 6 Texvlrrjs; in Gen. Ill, 5: Creator^ 


judgment and alone is able to ‘divide in the middle' bodies 
and things,” and it is God himself who divides the powers 
into beneficent and punitive,^'' and it is God himself who, 
“in His perfect knowledge of their mutual contrariety and 
natural conflict,” divided the light from the darkness.^^* 

The second law of nature which Philo attributes to the im- 
manent Logos is the law of the harmony of the opposites. 
Not only are things divided into opposites, but the opposites 
are also equal, and, because they are equal, an equilibrium is 
established between them and they become harmonized. As 
in the case of the opposites, Philo goes into a minute analysis 
of the various types of equality and into a detailed descrip- 
tion of how these various types of equality exist throughout 
the universe.^^ The act of harmonizing the opposites is 
attributed by him also to the immanent Logos. “ Good 
reason, then,” he says, “have we to be sure that all the earth 
shall not be dissolved by all the water which has gathered 
within its hollows, nor fire be quenched by air, nor, on the 
other hand, air be ignited by fire, since the divine Logos 
stations itself between the elements, like a vocal between the 
voiceless elements of speech, so that the universe may send 
forth a harmony like that of a masterpiece of literature, for 
it mediates between the opponents amid their threatenings 
and reconciles them by winning ways to peace and con- 
cord.” In Aristobulus this harmonization of the opposites 
is attributed directly to God. “The constitution of the 
world,” he says, “may well be called for its majesty God's 
standing (crraorLs) ; for God is over all, and all things are 

30 Uid, 28, 143. 

3^ IMd* 34, 166. 33 Hera, 28, 141-42, 204. 

3 ® Opif, 9, 33; cf. Gen. 1:4. 34 Plant. 2, 10. 

35 This probably refers to the expression “the standing {arkcriv, Hebrew: hadom) 
for the feet of our Lord” in I Chron. 28: 2; in Isa. 66; i, the Hebrew hadom is trans- 
lated by iwowhBtoy, 



subject unto Him, and have received from Him their station 
(ffraaiv), SO that men may comprehend that they are im- 
movable. Now my meaning is like this, that heaven has 
never become earth, nor earth heaven, nor the sun become 
the shining moon, nor again the moon become the sun, nor 
rivers seas, nor seas rivers.” The law of the harmony of 
the opposites is also brought out in Philo’s statement that 
the Logos, — that is, the immanent Logos — acts as a “medi- 
ator” and as one who “arbitrates between the things which 
seem in opposition to each other, thus creating love and 
unanimity, for the Logos is always the cause and creator of 
fellowship.” 37 Again, all things are said by him to be held 
together “in accordance with the divine Logos which binds 
them by the most skillful art and by the most perfect 

In his statements of the law of the harmony of the oppo- 
sites no reference is made by Philo to Heraclitus. Nor is 
there in Heraclitus any explicit statement that it is the Logos 
which brings about that harmony. In later restatements of 
Heraclitus’ views, God himself is said to be the opposites of 
“day, night; winter, summer; war, peace; surfeit, famine,” 
or the opposites themselves are said to be the cause of their 
own harmony, for “junctions are: wholes and not wholes, 
that which agrees and that which differs, that which produces 
harmony and that which produces discord; from all you get 
one and from one you get all.” Among the Stoics, however, 
the unity of the world and the universal sympathy which pre- 

3 ® Quoted in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica VIII, ii, 377a~b. 

37 in Bx. II, 68, and Harris, Fragments^ p. 66. Cf. Goodenough, By Lights 
Lights pp. 26-27. 

33 in Bx, II, 90; cf. also II, 118. Cf, Br6hier, p. 88, n. 2, 

39 Hippolytus, Refutaiio Omnium Haeresium IX, 10 (ed. Duncker et Schneide- 
win, p. 448, IL 33'-34)* Gf. Zeller, I, 2^, p. 664, n. i; (X^e Pre-Socratic Philosophy ^ 
II, p. 38, n. i), 

De Mundoj 5, 396b, 20-22; cf. Br6hier, p. 88, n. 2. 


vails among all its parts is said to be due to God/^ who to 
them is the active principle within the primary fire called, 
among other things, also Logos. It is probably the Stoics, 
with whose view he may have also identified that of Heracli- 
tus, that are the source of Philo's theory that the Logos is the 
harmonizer of the opposites.^^ 

Sometimes Philo describes this principle of the harmony 
of the opposites in terms used by Plato in connection with 
his world-soul and by the Stoics in connection with what they 
call both world-soul and Logos. Plato uses the term bond 
(Sco'/xos)^^ in connection with his world-soul, and says con- 
cerning it that God '‘caused it to extend throughout the 
whole" and that its function was "to guide the greatest 
part of created things to the best end." The Stoics simi- 
larly describe their world-soul or Logos as a principle of 
cohesion which is defined as a bond (Secrjuos)^^ and is 

represented as pervading every part of the world and as 
being the ruling principle iji'yeixoviKbv) in it.^*^ With all this 
in the back of his mind, Philo says of the immanent Logos 
that it is "the bond (deafxos) of all existence, and holds and 
knits together all the parts"; it is "a glue and bond" by 
which all things are held tight; it " holds together and ad- 
ministers {biOLKodpTos) all things"; it is "the ruler (5tWos) 
and steersman {Kv^epprjrrjs) of all";^^ it extends throughout 
nature, "combining and compacting all its parts, for the 
Father the Begetter made it the indissoluble bond of the 

41 Sextus, Adversus Physicos I, 78-85. 

42 Cf. Br^hier, p. 88, n, a. Immut. 7, 35; Arnim, II, 458. 

43 <Timaeus 38 e; 41 b. 48 Diogenes, VII, 138. 

44 Ibid. 34 B. 49 Ibid.y 139. 

45 Ibid, 48 A. so Pug. 20, 1 12. 

4® Diogenes, VII, 139. ^ Heres 38, 188. 

5* Mos, II, 26, 133, So also in Wisdom of Solomon 8: i; cf. above, p. 288, 

S3 Cher, ii, 36; Migr. i, 6. S4 Plant, 2, 9. 



But here again, in order not to be misunderstood, Philo 
tries to make it clear, whenever the occasion arises, that his 
immanent Logos, unlike that of the Stoics, is not itself God, 
but has a God above it. Indeed the Logos may be called the 
bond which holds the world together, but in reality it de- 
rives that power from God, for ultimately it is God who 
“without toil made this vast universe long ages ago, and 
now without toil holds it in perpetual existence.” “ The 
Logos may, after a fashion, be described as administering 
all things and as ruler and steersman, but in reality it is God 
who administers (StotKetr) all things and who is the ruler 
(SIoTTos)®^ and the steersman (KVjSepri^TTjs).®* 

The description of the immanent Logos as both divider and 
combiner, but with a closer resemblance to its original use 
in Heraclitus and the Stoics, is reflected in Philo’s interpre- 
tation of the Seraphim in the vision of Isaiah. “ I saw the 
Lord seated on a high and lofty throne and the house was 
filled with His glory and Seraphim stood around Him, each 
having six wings, and with two they covered the face, and 
with two they covered the feet, and two they used in flying.”®’ 
The term Seraphim, he says, may be taken to mean either a 
pattern {typus) or fire {incendium).^ By this he means that 
the term Seraphim may be taken to refer either to the in- 
corporeal Logos in the intelligible world of ideas, which is a 
“pattern,” or to the immanent Logos in the physical world, 
which the Stoics call “fire.” Taking up the latter meaning 
of the term, he says that literally the Seraphim — as indi- 
cated by the etymology of the Hebrew word, which, as taken 

5s Sacr, 7, 40. 

Conf, 33, 170. j)ecaL 12, 53. 

57 Spffc, IV5 38, 200. 59 Isa. 6: i~2. 

De Deo 6. In the Latin text, the reading is Cherubim, which is obviously an 
error. Cf. M. Adler, “Das philouikhe Fragment Be Deo^* Monatsschrift Jur 
Qeschkhte und Wissenschaft des Judentums, 80 (1936), 167. 


by Philo, means ‘^the burning ones’^ — are made of fire, — 
not the destructive kind of fire but the kind of fire ^^by which 
all things are skillfully made/^ He then adds: ^'Wherefore, 
as it seems to me, some philosophers also declared that a 
craftsmanlike fire proceeds by a regular road to the produc- 
tion of seeds in generation.” This additional statement is 
almost a literal quotation of Zeno’s definition of nature or 
the Logos as craftsmanlike fire proceeding by a regular 
road to generation.” This craftsmanlike fire, he continues, 
divides matter into the four elements,^^ of which earth and 
water are symbolized by the two lower wings which cover the 
feet of the Seraphim and air and fire are symbolized by the 
two upper wings which cover the face of the Seraphim.^^ But 
since, according to ''certain natural philosophers” {Physici 
quidam)y by which he means Heraclitus and Empedocles, 
"love and opposition” {dilectio et oppositio) are also ele- 
ments, which elements initiate movement in the other four 
elements, love and opposition are symbolized by the two 
wings by which the Seraphim fly and raise themselves to the 
Prime Leader {dux princeps) who is the sole harmonizer.®^ 
Here then God, who is above the Logos, is the true harmo- 
nizer, and by the same token also the true divider; and the 
immanent Logos, represented by the Seraphim, which means 
fire, is the principle of both opposition — that is, the law of 
opposites — and love — that is, the law of the harmony of 

"De DeOy 6; “Quare, ut mihi videtur, etiam nonnulii philosophorum, ignem 
artifidalem asseruere in viam cadere ad semina in generadonem producenda.*’ 

Diogenes, VII, 156; Cicero, De Natura Lsorum II, 2a, 57: “Zeno igitur natu- 
ram ita definit, ut earn dicit ignem esse artificiosum ad gignendum progredientem 

<*3 Be Deo, 8 . 

De Deo, 9. 

<*5 Cf. Aristotle, De Gen, et Corr, I, i, 314a, 16-17; ^ 7 * 

^ De Deo, 10. With this interpretation, compare the interpretation of this pas- 
sage in Goodenough, By Light, Light, pp. 30-31. 



the opposites. The terms love {dilectio) and opposition {op- 
positio) used by Philo in this passage reflect the terms love 
((^iX/o) and strife (velKos) used by Empedocles,^^ combined 
with the term opposites (ivavrla) used in Heraclitus’ theory 
of the opposites.®* 

A third law of nature which Philo attributes to the im- 
manent Logos is the law of the perpetuity of the species. 
“God willed,” he says, “that nature should run a course that 
brings it back to its starting point, endowing the species with 
immortality, and making them sharers of eternal existence,” 
so that the fruit comes out of the plant, the fruit contains a 
seed, and out of the seed comes a plant again.®’ This reflects 
Aristotle’s generalization that men and animals and plants 
can be eternal only as species and not as individuals.^® In 
describing this principle of the perpetuity of the species, 
however, Philo does not use the Aristotelian vocabulary. In 
Aristotle the perpetuity of the species is described as being 
due directly to the nutritive power {t 6 BptrTiKbv), for “this 
nutritive power exists in all alike, whether animals or plants, 
and this is the same as the power that enables an animal or 
plant to generate another like itself, that being the function 
of them all if naturally perfect.” In Philo the perpetuity 
of the species is described as being due directly to the pres- 
ence of “seminal essences” {arepixariKal oixriai) within plants, 
which endow them with the power of reproducing their 
species, for “hidden and imperceptible within these seminal 
substances are the Logoi of all things.” Elsewhere the 
Logos is similarly described by him as the “seminal es- 

^7 Cf. Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker^ **Wortindex’* s.v, 

Cf. above, p, 334. 

Opif. 13, 44. 

7 ® De Gen, Animal II, i, 731b, 3i“-732a, i; De Anima II, 4, 415b, 3-7. 

7 ^ De Gen. Animal 11 ^ i, 735a, 16-19. 

7 * Opif. 13, 43. 


sence” {(ntepixariK^ ova la) of things, as the ‘‘seminal and 
craftsmanlike Logos’’ (cnreppariKos nal rexviubs and 

as the “seminal Logoi” (aTeppanKol \byoi)J^ All these re- 
flect various terms of the Stoics, such as, “craftsmanlike 
fire,” ^^seminal Logos” and “seminal Logoi,” which are 
used by them to describe their God, identified by them with 
the active principle in the primary fire, as the creative priiici- 
ple in the world, after the analogy of the seed in the genera- 
tion of animals.'^^ But here, too, after having ascribed to his 
immanent Logos powers like those ascribed to it by the Stoics, 
Philo tries to make it clear that his immanent Logos, unlike 
the Stoic Logos, is not the ultimate cause of the generation 
of plants or animals in the world nor of the creation of the 
world itself. Above it there is God. “So Moses,” he says, 
“beyond all other, had most accurately learned that God, by 
setting the seeds {(nreppaTa) and roots of all things, is the 
cause of the greatest of all plants springing up, namely, this 
universe.” In this, at least in so far as the generation of 
plants and animals is concerned, Philo aligns himself with 
Aristotle as against the Stoics, for to Aristotle, too, while the 
“nutritive power” within plants and animals is the immedi- 
ate cause of the perpetuity of their species, the ultimate 
cause of that perpetuity is the prime mover or God.®^ 

Sometimes, instead of Logos, which is the totality of God’s 
powers, he makes use of the term powers as a description of 
the immediate cause of the immutable laws of nature. As in 
the case of the immanent Logos, he describes these immanent 
powers as “bonds.” In his homily on the verse “the Lord 

73 in Ex. II, 68 ; Harris, Fragments, p. 67. 

74 Heres 24, 119; cf. Jet. 17, 85. 

7 s Legat. 8, 55. 

7 ® Cf. above, n 62. 

77 Cf. above, n. 4 . 

81 Be Gen. et Corr. II, 10, 336b, 3o--337a, i. 

78 Cf. above, n. 7. 

79 Diogenes, VII, 136. 
8® Plant. 12, 48. 



came down to see the city and the tower” ** and on the 
scriptural expression “ God in heaven above and upon the 
earth beneath,” he says that these should not be taken to 
refer to God himself but rather to His powers, for “He has 
made His powers extend through earth and water, air and 
heaven, and left no part of the universe destitute, and unit- 
ing all with all has bound them fast with invisible bonds 
(Seo-jaois), that they should never be loosed,” for “ the 
powers of the universe are bonds (decrixol) that cannot be 
broken.” *5 These powers within the universe by which the 
world is held together are the same as, but have a different 
kind of existence than, those powers outside the universe 
which make up the intelligible world and the antemundane 
Logos and “according to which God established and ordered 
and arranged the universe.” Again, as in the case of the 
immanent Logos, he describes these immanent powers in 
terms of Heraclitus’ principle of the harmony of the oppo- 
sites, for “though transcending and being beyond what He 
has made, none the less has He filled the universe with him- 
self; for He has caused His powers to extend themselves 
throughout the universe to its utmost bounds and in accord- 
ance with the laws of harmony has knit each part of each.” 
The use of the term power in this sense is also found in the 
Letter of Aristeas, where the high priest is made to say that 
“there is only one God” and that “His power {dvvaius) is 
manifested throughout the universe, since every place is 
filled with His might.” It is similarly found in Aristo- 
bulus, in his statement that “the power of God is through 

** Gen. ii: 5; cf. Conf. 27, 134. 

*3 Deut. 4: 39; cf. Migr. 32, 182. 

*4 Conf, 27, 136. 182. 

*5 Migr. 32, 1 81. Post, 5, 14. 

Aristeas, 132; cf. discussion on the meaning of this statement in Gfrorer, II, 
p. 63; Drummond, I, p. 241, 


all things.” *** But in opposition to the Stoics, to whom 
these powers are powers of a God who is the active principle 
in the primary fire which resides within the universe,®” Philo 
emphasizes that these immanent powers are the powers of a 
God “who contains but is not contained”®^ and who is 
“neither the universe nor its soul.” ®* A complete statement 
of these immanent powers in their relation to the immanent 
Logos and to God, who is not immanent in the world, is to 
be found in a passage where he describes the Logos, that is, 
the immanent Logos, as “the charioteer of the powers,” in 
relation to which God is described as “He who is seated in 
the chariot, giving directions to the charioteer for the right 
wielding of the reins of the universe.” On the whole, to 
Philo’s mind, the immanent Logos is the totality of the im- 
manent powers in the visible world, just as the incorporeal 
Logos is the totality of the incorporeal powers in the intel- 
ligible world.®'' 

Though in his criticism of the Stoics Philo explicitly rejects 
their description of God as the soul of the universe, because 
of the implication in the Stoic use of it that God is a corporeal 
being and part of the universe,®® still he does not hesitate to 
apply to God this expression, or the expression mind of the 
universe, in the loose sense of ruler of the universe without 
the implication that He is corporeal and part of the universe. 
He thus says: “There are two minds, that of the world, 
which is God, and the individual mind.” ®* But in opposi- 
tion to the Stoics, who maintain that both the soul of the 
world, which is God, and the soul of man are fire, he argues 
that God is indeed the soul of the world but we have no 

59 Eusebius, Fraeparatto Evangelica VIII, 12, 666 d. 

9 ° Diogenes, VII, 147. 

9^ Conf, 27, 136; Migr, 32, 182. 

92 Migr. 32, 1 81. 

93 Fug, 19, loi. 

94 Cf. above, p. 227. 

95 32, 181. 

96 Leg, All III, 9, 29, 



knowledge about the substance of either soul or God, except 
that it is incorporeal.^'^ That God is described by him as 
mind only in the loose sense of His being the ruler of the 
world is brought out in a passage in which he argues that 
“just as sense is the servitor of mind, so all the beings per- 
ceived by sense are the ministers of Him who is perceived by 
the mind,” and that, consequently, “if the mind in us, so 
exceedingly small and invisible, is yet the ruler of the organs 
of sense,” God, whom on the basis of his previous analogy 
he now describes as “the mind of the universe,” and who is 
“so transcendently great and perfect,” must a fortiori be 
“the King of Kings, who are seen by Him though He is not 
seen by them.” In another place, he argues from the 
existence of a mind (toOs) in man, which is the ruler of the 
body, to the existence of a God who is the ruler of the 
world.’^ In still another place, he explains that “the wise 
man is the first of the human race, as a pilot in a ship or a 
ruler in a city or a general in war, or again as a soul in a body 
and a mind (vovs) in a soul, or once more heaven in the 
world or God in heaven.””" The difference in the relation 
of God to the universe and that of our mind to the body is 
directly stated by him in a passage in which he says that, in 
contradistinction to our mind which dwells in our body and 
is contained by it, God “dwells outside all material nature 
and contains everything without being contained by any- 
thing.” By the same token, just as he speaks of God as 
being the mind of the universe, he also speaks of the indi- 
vidual human mind as being a sort of god {rpbrov nva debs) of 
the individual human body, and the reason he gives for his 

Uid, I, 29, 91; cf. Mui. 2j 10. Our knowledge of the incorporeality of the 
rational soul, according to Philo, is based upon Scripture (cf. below, p, 394). 

58 Spec. I, 3, 17-18. 

’9 16, 74. 

Wd. 46, 272. 

Migr. 35, 192. 


application of the term god to the human mind is the com- 
parison of the rulership of God in the universe and the 
rulership of the individual human mind in man.’“ In a 
similar sense he speaks also of the mind as being a god to 
the irrational soul.^“5 In all these passages, as will have been 
noticed, God is said to be the mind or the soul of the universe 
only in the sense that God is the ruler of the universe, after 
the analogy of the human mind in its relation to the human 
body or in its relation to the human soul or in its relation to 
some parts of the human soul. 

III. Miracles 

When Philo described the immutable laws of nature as 
having been implanted in the world by God at the time He 
created it, he was following not only Plato but also Scrip- 
ture. Like Plato, Scripture assumes that there are certain 
immutable laws in nature and that these laws were implanted 
by God. It is God “who giveth the sun for a light by day, 
and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light 
by night,” ‘ ordinances which will not depart from before 
Him.* Like Plato, too. Scripture conceives the immutability 
of these laws of nature as being due to an assurance of its 
permanency given by God, a covenant, as it were, made at 
the end of the deluge between Him and “every living creature 
of all flesh,” an everlasting covenant, by which God gave 
assurance that “while the earth remaineth, seed time and 
harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and daj 
and night shall not cease and that neither will He again 
smite any more everything living, as He has done.” ® 

>“ Opif. 23, 6g. Leg. All. 1 , 13, 40. 

>Jer.3i:34. »Jer.3l:35. 

3 Gen. 8: 21-22; 9: 16-17; cf. Jer. 33: 20-2I. 



There is, however, one difference between Plato and 
Scripture as to these laws which according to both of them 
God implanted in the world. When the God of Plato as- 
sured the celestial bodies and the deities of popular religion 
that “in my will (jSofiXTjvts) ye possess a bond greater and 
more sovereign than the bonds wherewith, at your birth, ye 
were bound together,” “ that will was never to be changed. 
Not only will the world not be destroyed, but also the order 
of its nature will not be changed. Though the God of Plato 
started as a free agent and created the world by will,® by His 
own voluntary abdication of His own power to change the 
laws which He himself has implanted in the world. He has 
deprived himself of freedom and has henceforth acted by the 
necessity of His own nature no less than the God of Aristotle 
who never created a world by His own will. In the philosophy 
of Plato there is no room for miracles. The God of Scripture, 
however, despite the covenant, has still reserved for himself, 
mentally, the right to upset the order of nature, at least 
temporarily, whenever there should be a need for it; and, 
while it is a matter of doubt whether the God of Scripture 
ever will bring about the destruction of this world. He did, 
as a matter of record, perform miracles by temporary changes 
in the order of nature. 

Philo follows Scripture. According to his interpretation 
of Scripture, the world created by God will never be de- 
stroyed. His proof-text is God’s promise to Noah, quoted 
above, which he takes to mean the indestructibility of the 
world.® Referring evidently to Plato, he approves of those 
“who declare that though by nature destructible the world 
will never be destroyed, being held together by a bond of 
superior strength, namely, the will of its Maker,” ’ and this 

^ ^imams 41 b. ® Aet. 5, 19. 

5 lUd, 29 D~E; 41 A“*B. 7 Heres 50 , 246; cf. 30 , 152 ; cf. Timaeus 41 a-b. 


view he also attributes to Moses, saying that even though 
the world, by its having come into existence, must by its 
own nature be destructible, ‘‘by the providence of God it 
was made immortal/’ * But with Scripture, either in con- 
scious opposition to Plato or as an interpretation of him, he 
believes in the possibility of God’s changing the order of 
nature. While admitting that earth, rain, air, husbandry, 
medicine, and marriage in the ordinary course of nature are 
productive of certain effects, yet he maintains that “ all these 
things, through the power of God, admit of change and 
transition, so as often to produce effects quite the reverse of 
the ordinary.” ^ He particularly calls upon the miracles 
recorded in Scripture as evidence of God’s power to change 
the order of nature. In great detail he describes as historical 
events the miracles wrought by Moses in Egypt before the 
exodus of the children of Israel and in the wilderness after 
their exodus.^® Of these miracles, some were performed 
through intermediary agents, either by Aaron or by Moses 
or by both, while others, namely, swarms of flies, murrain, 
and the destruction of the first-born, were performed, ac- 
cording to him, directly by God himself without any inter- 
mediary agency.” What miracles are and for what purpose 
they are wrought may be gathered from the words he puts 
in the mouth of Moses when addressing the people before 
their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea; “Do not lose heart. 
God’s way of defence is not as that of men. Why are you 
quick to trust in the probable and the likely and that only ? 
When God gives help He needs no armament. It is His 

* Decal. 12, 58; cf. above, p. 316. 

• Immut. 19, 87. 

Mos. 1 , 12, 65 ff.; Migr. 15, 83 ff. 

“ Mos, 1 , 17, 97; 23, 130-24, 139. The same fourfold classification occurs also 
in Tanhuma^ Exodus, va-Era, 14; Exodus Rahhah 12, 4, and 15, 27 (cf. Ginzberg, 
the Legends of the Jews, II, p. 341, and V, p. 426, n. 170). 



special property to find a way where no way is. What is im- 
possible to all created being is possible to Him only, ready 
to His hand.” “ Miracles accordingly are something wrought 
by God, either indirectly or directly, which would not have 
taken place by the ordinary processes of nature. They are 
“impossibilities no doubt as judged by what to outward 
appearance is credible and reasonable but easily accom- 
plished by the dispensations of God’s providence.” The 
scope of miracles includes such performances as the transfer- 
ence of the function of one element to another, as, for in- 
stance, for air, instead of earth, to bring forth food,^'* or the 
changing of the property of an element, as, for instance, for 
fire to move in a direction contrary to its nature,^^ or even the 
changing of the nature of a composite object, as, for instance, 
for the serpent to speak with a human voice.^® The belief 
that God can upset the laws which He himself has implanted 
in nature is explained by Aristobulus in his comment on 
the verse “ Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because 
the Lord descended upon it in fire.” The descent here, he 
says, is not local. It only means that God in a miraculous 
way imparted to fire the efficacy (rd hwaiiiKhv) to blaze with- 
out consuming.^® 

Sometimes indeed he attempts to explain some miracle re- 
corded in Scripture by natural causes. Thus the story of how 
Moses had made sweet the bitter water of Marah by throw- 
ing a tree into the spring “ may, according to Philo, be ex- 

» Mos. I, 31, 174. 

« Ibid. II, 47, a6i. 

Ibid. I, 36, 202; II, 48, 267. Cf. Exod. 16: 4 ff. 

's ^«. in Gen. IV, 51; Harris, Fragments, p. 34. Cf. Gen. 19; 24. 

Ibid. I, 32. Cf. Gen. 3: 2. 

Cf. above, p. 347. 

Exod. 19: 18. 

Quoted in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evahgelica VIII, ii, 377c-d. 

” Exod. 15: 22-26. 


plained as an outright miracle, in which case the tree “was 
created on this occasion for the service which it was destined 
to perform,” or it may be explained by natural causes, in 
which case the tree “was formed by nature to exercise a 
virtue which had hitherto remained unknown.” “ So also in 
the story of how Moses brought water out of the rock by 
smiting it with his staff, it may be explained as an outright 
miracle, in which case “then for the first time a body of 
water was collected in it through hidden channels and was 
forced out by impact,” or it may be explained by natural 
causes, in which case “ the rock contained originally a spring 
and now had its artery clean severed.” But such attempts 
at a natural explanation of miracles are not meant by Philo 
to be a denial of the miraculous nature of the occurrence. 
They are meant only to show that God sometimes employs 
the powers of nature to perform His miracles. The fact that 
the hidden sweetening virtue of the tree and the hidden 
spring of the rock were discovered by Moses just at the time 
when they were needed was due to the miraculous inter- 
vention of God.®'* Often, indeed, he tries to give allegorical 

« Mas. 1 , 33, 185. 

Exod. 17; 1-7; Num. 20: 1-13; Deut. 8: 15. 

23 Mos, I, 38, 210-21 1. 

An explanation of this miracle of bringing forth water out of the rock analogous 
to that given thereof by Philo occurs in the Mishnaic statement that “ the mouth of 
the well/* i.e., the miracle here under consideration, is one of the ten things which 
were created at twilight on the sixth day of creation {M. AhotY^ 6, and see Hebrew 
commentaries ad he, and Rashi on Pesahlm 54a). According to the Midrash, fur- 
thermore, not only this miracle and the other nine miracles which are mentioned in 
the Mishnah as having been created at twilight on the sixth day, butjalso all the other 
miracles recorded in Scripture, were created during the six days of creation by a stip- 
ulation which God made with every natural object at the time He brought it into 
existence {Genesis Rabbah 5, 5, and see Maimonides on M. Ahot V, 6). The motive 
underlying this rational explanation of miracles in the Midrash was a desire to 
reconcile the possibility of miracles with God’s expressed promise to observe the 
laws which He has established in the universe (cf. Exodus Rahhah 21,6, and cf. 
above n. 3). Miracles, according to this Midrashic explanation, are thus not alto- 


35 ^ 

interpretations to Scriptural miracles. But in such cases, 
again, the attempt at an allegorical interpretation of miracles 
should not be taken as a denial of theif historicity as actual 
facts. Thus in the story of how Moses smote the rock and 
brought forth water, besides explaining it as an outright 
miracle or as a miracle by natural causes, he also explains it 
allegorically, taking the “rock ” and the “water ” as referring 
to the immutable God from whom showers forth the birth of 

gether contrary to nature, but still the events in question are not thereby de- 
prived completely of their miraculous character. They are still to be considered 
as acts due to the direct intervention of God, first by His implanting them in nature 
as exceptions to their established order and then by His making them occur exactly 
at the time they were needed and by His announcing their occurrence before- 

This Midrashic explanation of miracles by a sort of preestablished disharmony is 
analogous to a similar explanation of divination by the Stoics. “They maintain 
that from the beginning of the world it has been ordained that certain signs must 
needs precede certain events, some of which are drawn from the entrails of animals, 
some from the note and flight of birds, some from the sight of lightning, some from 
prodigies, some from stars, some from visions of dreams, and some from exclama- 
tions of men in frenzy: and those who have a clear perception of these things are not 
often deceived” (Cicero, De DivinaHone I, 52, 1 18). But in this Stoic conception of 
divination there is nothing miraculous. The harmony was established, according 
to them, by necessity and not by will, and the process of divination is to them, 
again, a necessary process without any element of divine grace in it (cf. below, 

II , 47 )- 

In medieval Jewish philosophy, on the basis of this Midrash, Judah ha-Levi 
offers the following explanation of miracles; “The changes in the ordinary processes 
of nature were in accordance with nature, for they have been arranged for and 
determined upon by the eternal will ever since the six days of creation” (Cuzari 

III, 73 end). This, too, was not meant by ha-Levi to be a denial of the miraculous 
nature of the events that happened. In Maimonides this Midrashic view is restated 
as follows: “The rabbis consider these miracles as being to some extent also natural, 
for they say that when God created the universe and endowed it with these natural 
properties, He made it part of these properties that they should produce certain 
miracles at certain times. The sign of a prophet consists accordingly in the fact 
that God made known to him the time he should announce the event that is to take 
place and informed him that the event would take place in accordance with what 
has been implanted in nature from the beginning of its creation” {Moreh Nebukim 
II, 29; cf. Shemoneh Pera^m, ch. 8; Commentary on M. Jbot V, 6). In the light 
of all this, I do not think that Br6hier (p. 182) is quite right in taking Philo*s at- 
tempts at a rational explanation of some miracles as an indication of his disbelief in 


all that exists.^® This allegorical interpretation certainly does 
not mean a denial of the historicity of the event, the veracity 
of which, as we have seen, is accepted by him elsewhere; it 
only means that the event, true historically though it is, has 
also an allegorical meaning and that it points to a moral in 
addition to its recording a fact. Only in the story of creation, 
with reference to which his allegorical interpretation may be 
taken to be a denial of the literalness of the narrative, does 
he declare such a miracle as the creation of Eve out of one 
of the ribs of Adam to be of the nature of a myth."*’ The 
story of creation is treated as in a class by itself throughout 
the history of the philosophic interpretation of Scripture, and 
many a theologian, whether Jewish or Christian, about 
whose belief in the possibility of miracles and in the his- 
toricity of the miracles recorded in Scripture there can be 
no doubt, allowed himself to interpret the story of creation as 
purely allegorical.®* But even in connection with the story 

miracles. Examples of miracles rationally explained by Philo are given also in 
Goodenough {By Light, Light, pp. 187-188), but the author quite properly draws no 
inference therefrom as to Philo’s disbelief in miracles. Siegfried (p. 210) sees in 
these attempts at a rational explanation of miracles evidence of the existence of 
some lingering doubt in the mind of Philo as to the logical reconcilability of miracles 
with his conception of God — which, as we have seen, is exactly the motive under- 
lying the Midrashic attempt at a rational explanation of miracles, 

Somn, 11 , 32, 221-222; Leg. All. II, 21, 84. 

2^ Gen. 2: 21. *^Sides” instead of “ribs” in the Septuagint and Philo. 

Leg. All. II, 7, 19. 

As, e.g., Origen, who believed in the historicity of the miraculous events 
recorded in Scripture (cf. Contra Celsum 11 , 48-53) and yet takes the stories of 
creation in a purely allegorical sense {Be Principiu IV, i, 16), explicitly mentioning 
the story of the creation of Eve as being a mere allegory {Contra Celsum IV, 38). 
Similarly Maimonides affirms his belief in the historicity of scriptural narratives, 
including those of the miracles {Moreh Nebukim III, 50), and yet he declares that 
“ the account given in the Pentateuch of creation is not, as generally believed by the 
common people, to be taken in its literal sense in all its parts” {ibid., II, 29). Here 
again Br^hier (p. 184) takes Philo’s statement with regard to the story of the crea- 
tion of Eve as an indication of his rejection of the historicity of all the miraculous 
stories recorded in Scripture. 



of creation, this particular story of the creation of Eve is 
elsewhere taken by Philo as a historical event.®’ 

The allegorical explanation of miracles by Philo is thus no 
denial of their historicity as events which actually took place, 
just as his occasional attempt at a rational explanation of 
them is no denial of the miraculous nature of those events. 
It is therefore quite literally and without any equivocation 
of language that he could proclaim that “if anyone disbe- 
lieves these things, he neither knows God nor has ever sought 
to know Him; for if he did he would at once have perceived 
— aye, perceived with a firm apprehension — that these 
extraordinary and seemingly incredible events are but child’s- 
play to God.” If one should doubt the power of God to 
work miracles, he throws out the challenge, let him look at 
the world which was created and ordered by God. In com- 
parison with the wonders of the universe, all of which are the 
work of God, all these recorded “extraordinary and seem- 
ingly incredible events are but child’s-play to God.” The 
act of creation itself is to him one of the greatest of miracles, 
and, if God could do that, nothing is impossible for Him, for 
“as God called up His most perfect work, the world, out of 
not being into being, so He called up plenty in the desert, 
changing round the elements to meet the pressing need of the 
occasion.” ^ The act of creation as an argument for the 
possibility of miracles comes up again and again in later 
religious philosophy.^^ 

According to Brehier (Joe. ^ of Philo’s declarations as to his belief in the 

historicity of the scriptural miracles which are to be found in his De Vita Mosis and 
the ^aesHones should be taken allegorically, whereas his allegorical interpretations 
of scriptural miracles which are to be found in his Legum Alkgoria should be taken 
literally. 31 JUd, 

30 Mos. I, 38, ai2. 33 ihid. II, 48, 267. 

33 So Tertullian uses the act of creation as an argument for the possibility of the 
miracle of resurrection (cf. Vie resur. earn, c, XI). St. Augustine uses it as an argu- 
ment for resurrection as well as for miracles in general {De Cmtate Dei XXI, 7). 


His conception of miracles as a certain element of freedom 
reserved by God for himself even after He has implanted the 
laws of nature in the world is clearly expressed by him in 
his statement that while God has implanted certain unalter- 
able laws in the universe by bestowing upon it '‘powers 
(Swa/zety),'’ He did not bestow upon it “independent (auro- 
Kparets) powers/’ so that, “like a charioteer grasping the reins 
or a pilot the tiller, He guides all things in what direction He 
pleases as law {vbixov) and right {bUriv) demand, standing in 
need of no one besides: for all things are possible to God.” 
The “law and right” in this passage refer to God’s own law 
and right and not to the order of nature which He has estab- 
lished; the implication is that God does in the world and 
with the order which He has established in it whatever to 
His inscrutable wisdom is just and right in a given particular 
instance, even when by doing so He has to upset the laws of 
nature which He has established for the general good of the 
world as a whole which He has created. A similar type of 
reasoning appears later in medieval philosophy in connection 
with the problem of miracles. There arises the question that 
the assumption that God does occasionally change the order 
of nature must inevitably mean also the assumption that 
God acts unjustly, inasmuch as the order of nature is the 
same as the order of justice. St. Thomas’ answer to this is 
that for God to do something against the order of nature or 
justice as established by Him in the world does not mean that 
He does something against the order of His own nature and 
His own justice.^^ The world is thus conceived by Philo as a 
world which is run according to a certain preestablished law 

Similarly Maimonides uses creation as an argument for the possibility of miracles in 
general {Morek Nehukim II, 25) and for the possibility of resurrection in particular 
(Ma*amar Tehiyyat ha~Metim^ c. 42, p, 30, ed. Joshua Finkel; Kohes^ II, p. lovb). 

34 Opif. 14, 46; cf. ConJ, 34, 175. 

35 Sum, theoL 1 , 105, 6. 



on a scheduled timetable, and man can make his plans in the 
world with a reasonable expectancy that that which has 
been is that which shall be and that the order of nature will 
remain constant. But still he is to know that God can change 
this order and this schedule without previous notice, though 
not without some good reason known only to himself. 

IV. Conclusion, Influence, Anticipation 

Students of Philo generally assume that Philo’s Logos has 
two stages of existence, before the creation of the world as a 
thought of God and after the creation of the world as im- 
manent in the world. We have shown that before the crea- 
tion of the world it had already had a second stage of exist- 
ence as an incorporeal being created by God. The immanent 
Logos is a third stage of its existence. Unlike the Stoic Logos, 
which is material and intermingled with matter, the im- 
manent Logos of Philo is conceived by him as something 
immaterial, an extension of the preexistent immaterial Logos, 
and it resides in the world after the analogy of the preexistent 
mind or soul which Plato conceives as residing in the world. 
Still, while it is unlike the Stoic Logos, the immanent Logos 
is described by Philo in terms of the Stoic Logos, except that 
he does not call it the mind of the world or the soul of the 
world. These two expressions are reserved by him for God, 
who is outside the world and to whom he applies them figura- 
tively, merely as a description of His being the ruler of the 

In his treatment of the immanent Logos, Philo endeavors 
to answer two questions. 

The first question is whether the world is governed by 
certain immutable laws of nature. In opposition to the Epi- 
cureans and in agreement with Plato, Aristotle, and the 
Stoics, he answers this question in the affirmative. For this 


he finds support in Scripture, which, according to him, 
affirms not only the indestructibility of the world but also 
the immutability of its natural order. But these laws of 
nature were implanted in the world by God from above and 
they are administered by the immanent Logos through the 
power which it has received from God. His scattered state- 
ments on the laws of nature when brought together and 
analyzed and classified show that in the administration of the 
world by the immanent Logos Philo has discovered three 
general laws of nature, namely, the law of the opposites, the 
law of the harmony of the opposites, and the law of the per- 
petuity of the species. 

The second question raised by Philo is whether these laws 
of nature, once implanted by God in the world, can be upset 
by God. In opposition to the generally accepted view in 
Greek philosophy, even to that of Plato, he answers this 
question in the affirmative. Evidence for this he finds in the 
many miracles recorded in Scripture. 

In this view of Philo we have an adumbration of the view 
with regard to the laws of nature which we find subsequently 
in Christian, Moslem, and Jewish philosophy. The common 
element in all these three philosophies is that there are laws 
of nature, that these laws of nature were implanted by God 
in the world, but that God by a miraculous intervention can 
upset these laws of nature. We may quote St. Augustine as 
representing this Philonic view among the Church Fathers. 
“What is there so arranged by the Author of the nature of 
heaven and earth as the exactly ordered course of the stars ? 
What is there established by laws so sure and inflexible.^ 
And yet, when it pleased Him who with sovereignty and 
supreme power regulates all He has created, a star con- 
spicuous among the rest by its size and splendor changed its 
color, size, form, and most wonderful of all the order and law 

358 PHILO 

of its course.” ' The reference here is to an event recorded 
in Marcus Varro’s De Gente Populi Romani, and later in the 
same chapter he refers also to the miracles of the sun’s stand- 
ing still and its moving backward which are recorded in 
Scripture.® The occurrence of events, he says, which some 
people attribute to what they please to call fate, that is, the 
inflexible laws of nature, should be really attributed to the 
will- and power of God himself.^ This view is also represented 
by St. Thomas in his statements that “ God established the 
order of nature,” and that “this order is subject to Him, as 
proceeding from Him, not by the necessity of His nature, 
but by the choice of His own will, for He could have created 
another order of things; wherefore God can do something 
outside this order created by Him, when He chooses,” ® and 
that “those things which God does outside those causes 
which we know are called miracles.” ^ The laws of nature 
are said by him to be due to divine providence {divina provi- 
dentia),’’ which he describes as divine reason {ratio divinay 
or eternal reason {ratio aetemaY or divine wisdom {divina 
sapientia^Y terms which reflect Philo’s “divine Logos,” 
“eternal Logos,” and “divine Wisdom.” “ Similarly in 
Arabic philosophy, both Moslem and Jewish, this view is 
represented by those who argued against the orthodox 
Kalam’s denial of causality and laws of nature as well as 
against the Aristotelian conception that God acts by the 
necessity of His nature and without free will. All of these 

^ De Cmtate Dei XXI, 8. 

* Josh. 10:13; Isa. 38: 8. 

3 De Cmtate Dei V, i. 

4 Sum. "Theol, 1 , 105, 6, obj. 3; Ordinem naturae Deus instituiU 

3 Ibid.^ c.; cf. Cent. Gent. Ill, 99. 

^ Sum. TheoL I, 105, 7, c.; cf, Cont. Gent. Ill, loi. 

7 Sum. Theol. I, II, 91, i, c. 

^ Ibid. Ihid.^ 3, ad I. 

» Ibid.y 2, c. « Cf,, e.g., Opif. 5, 20; Plant. 2, 8; Heres 25, 126, 


acknowledged the historicity of the miraculous events as 
recorded in Scripture and the Koran. Indeed, not all the 
miracles recorded in Scripture are of the type that upset the 
laws of nature, that is, contra naturam\ some of them are 
according to nature, though besides nature, that is, praeter 
naturam^"^ and the miraculous element in them consists in 
the acceleration of the natural process or in its timing. More- 
over, some philosophers, especially among the Jews, ex- 
plained even those miracles which seem to be contrary to 
nature as events for which God had made provision at the 
time of the creation of the world and hence as being to some 
extent part of the order of nature.'* But however God is con- 
ceived by the medieval philosophers in His relation to the 
physical world, whether as acting contrary to nature, or 
whether as accelerating or timing the processes of nature, or 
whether as carrying into effect at an opportune time the ex- 
ception to the processes of nature which He had made pro- 
visions for at the creation of the world. He has retained His 
character as a free agent and as exercising His freedom of will 
in His relation to the affairs of mankind. 

It is this traditional conception of the possibility of mira- 
cles that was made the subject of attack by those who began 
to assail some of the fundamental conceptions of traditional 
philosophy which were formulated by Philo. In the case of 
Spinoza, after his direct attack on the possibility of miracles, 
he reaffirmed the classical conception of the immutability of 
the laws of nature, especially as it was conceived by 

Cf. Maimonides, Ma*amar ^ehiyyat ha-Metim c. 49, p. 34, ed. Joshua Finkel; 
Kobe^ II, iirb, where miracles are divided into those which are (i) “impossible by 
nature’’ and those which are {2) “possible by nature,” corresponding to St. Thomas’ 
(i) contra naturam and (2) praeter naturam {De Potent ia VI, 2, ad 3; II Sent,, XVIII, 
h 3c). 

^3 C£. above, n. 24. 

Cf. fractatus Theologico-Foliticus^ ch. 6. 


1 . Living Beings 

It is significant that the immanent Logos, which pervades 
the world throughout, is never called by Philo the soul or 
mind of the world. Whenever he happens to use the expres- 
sions soul of the world and mind of the world, he uses them 
in an analogical sense as a description of God’s governance 
of the world.^ His avoidance of the use of these expressions 
in their literal sense and as a description of the immanent 
Logos was deliberate. He wanted to avoid the inconsistency 
in the use of these expressions by both Plato and the Stoics 
in that they first affirm that there is a soul or a mind which 
extends throughout or permeates the world and then dis- 
tinguish within the world between animate and inanimate 
beings.® By not applying to the all-pervading immanent Logos 
the expression soul or mind of the world Philo can with 
greater verbal consistency affirm that within the world there 
is a distinction between things that have a soul or mind and 
things that have no soul or mind. 

Soul and mind, like all other things in the world, are to 
Philo, as they are not to Plato, images of ideas; in this case 
images of the ideas of soul and mind.* The ideas of soul and 
mind, as will be recalled, were created by God on the day 
which Scripture calls the first day of creation.'* After the 
model of the soul, the powers, at the behest of God, created 
irrational souls together with bodies,* and God himself 

* Cf. above, p. 346. 3 Cf. above, p. 214* 

* Cf. below, p. 361. 4 Cf. above, p. 307. 

s Fug, 13, 69; cf. Opif, 24, 74-75; 35 j 179; cf. below, p. 386, 


created rational souls without bodies/ In this, Philo follows 
Plato in the ’Timaeus.’’ All these souls are individual souls; 
besides these individual souls there is not, as assumed in 
Plato’s TimaeuSy^ a universal soul. Instead of a universal 
soul, there is to him an immanent Logos, by which he means 
the totality of immanent ideas. Again, unlike Plato in the 
'iimaeuSy who has his unbodied rational souls, immediately 
after their creation, placed in the stars,” Philo has them 
placed in the air.^“ But, like Plato in the PhaedruSy^ he dis- 
tinguishes within these unbodied souls between those which 
are to be embodied and those which are to remain without 
bodies.^’ As for the cause of this distinction, we shall discuss 
that later. Unbodied souls as well as bodies with souls 
are described by Philo as having the nature of living beings 
(17 tiSj' as distinguished from beings which 

neither are souls nor possess souls. 

Things in the world are thus to Philo, as they are to Plato 
and Aristotle and the Stoics, divided into animate and in- 
animate. But, like the Stoics and unlike Plato and 
Aristotle, he does not place plants among the animate be- 
ings, even though like all the philosophers he distinguishes 
them, by virtue of their having growth, from growthless be- 
ings. Growthless beings, as in the Stoics, have only a co- 
hesive principle described by the term habit plants 

have an inner principle of growth described as nature ((f>vcns); 

® Plant. 4, 14; Somn. I, 22, 137; Fug. 13, 69; Conf. 35, 179; cf. below, p, 389. 

7 Timaeus 6 g c; cf. below, pp. 387, 397. 

® IMd. 41 D. I® Somn. I, 22, 135, and 138. 

9 IMd. « Phaedrus 246 c, 

” 3, 12; Plant. 4, 14; Somn. I, 22, 140. 

Cf. below, p. 367. 

^4 Conf. 35, 176. 

Sextus, Jdversus Physicos I, 81; cf. Zeller, III, p. 196, n. i {Stoics ^ 
reans and Sceptks^^ p. 208, n. 3). 

S^imaeus 77 a-b. 

Jde Anima I, 5, 410b, 22-23; 7-8. 



and animals and men have an inner principle of life called 
soul i^vxn)’^^ The term “soul,” when applied to man, is 
used either in a general sense so as to include both the irra- 
tional and rational souls or in a special sense with reference 
to the rational soul.““ For the latter, the more specific term 
is mind (vovsY^ or common equivalents of the term mind." 
But the term “mind” is sometimes also used by him loosely 
in the sense of the irrational soul.“* In one place he says that 
“the mind . . . has many powers, namely, the power of 
habit, the power of nature, the power of soul, the power of 
thought, and countless other powers.” Here the term 
“mind” would seem to be used not only as including the 
rational and the irrational soul but also as including “habit” 
and “nature.” However, the term “mind” in this passage 
is qualified by the statement “when as yet unclothed and 
unconfined by the body.” By this qualifying statement, 
we take it, he wishes to indicate that by the term “mind” 
in this passage he means the incorporeal, antemundane 
Logos, which is elsewhere described by him as “the mind 
above us,” that is, what is described by him here as “ the 
mind when as yet unclothed and unconfined by the body.” 
Now the Logos, as we have seen, is the totality of powers,“^ 
that is, the totality of all the ideal patterns of all the particu- 
lar powers in the world, and so Philo is justified in saying 
that it includes not only the power of “ soul ” and the power 

Immut. 7, 3J-9, 45. 

« Leg. All. II, 04, 95; Agr. 7, 30-31; Spec. I, 37, 201. 

Heres ii, 55. 

2* Immut, 10, 45, 

Such, e.g., as Si&voia {Opif. 46, 135); 'Kdyos {Deter, 23, 83); Tvevna 
XoyiKiyv irvwfxa {Spec, I, 35, 171). 

Leg, All, 1 , 12, 32. Cf. Drummond, I, pp, 218-223. 

*4 Leg, All, II, 7, 22. 


Heres 48, 236; cf. 234. 

. Cf. above, p, 234. 


of “mind” but also the power of “habit” and the power of 

While departing from Plato and Aristotle and following 
the Stoics in his exclusion of plants from among living beings, 
Philo is in doubt whether he should equally follow the 
Stoics, and in this case also Plato and certain statements 
of Aristotle,^" by including the celestial bodies among living 
beings. In one place he raises the following questions; “Are 
the stars living and intelligent, or devoid of mind and soul? 
Are their motions determined by choice or simply by neces- 
sity?” And in answer to these questions he says: “All 
these and suchlike points pertaining to heaven, that fourth 
and best cosmic substance, are obscure and beyond our ap- 
prehension, based on guess-work and conjecture.” In- 
deed, in several places in his writings he does speak of the 
stars as having life and intelligence. But, when these pas- 
sages are closely examined, it will be noticed that in all of 
them he speaks in the name of somebody else, without com- 
mitting himself to the view he presents. In one place he 
says: “Those who have made philosophy their study tell us 
that the stars too are living creatures and entirely endowed 
with mind, of which some, the planets, move by a power in- 
herent in themselves.” In another passage he says that 
the stars “are said to be not only living creatures but living 
creatures endowed with mind, or rather each of them a mind 
in itself, excellent through and through and unsusceptible of 
any evil.” In still another passage he says that “each of 
the stars is said to be not a living creature only but mind of 

Diogenes, VII, 145; Cicero, Academka Priora II, 37, 119. 

^imaeus 39 E-40 a. 

30 De Caelo II, a, a85a, 29; II, la, 292a, ii and 20-21; 292b, 29. 

3 ^ Somn. I, 4, 22. 

3* Ibid.y 23. 

33 Plant. 3, 12. 

34 Opij. 24, 73. 



the purest kind through and through.” In all these pas- 
sages, it will be noticed, Philo is careful to attribute the state- 
ment about the animality and rationality of the stars to 
somebody else.^^ 

In one passage, however, he would seem to speak in his 
own name. He says; “The stars are souls divine and un- 
mixed through and through ... for each of them is mind in 
its purest form.” ” But the statement in this passage, it 
will be noticed, is an exact parallel of the statement in the 
last passage quoted above, where it repeats something said 
by others; and consequently we are justified in assuming 
that his failure to quote it as the view of somebody else in 
this passage is only an accidental omission. Moreover, the 
statement in both these passages that each star is a pure and 
unmixed mind in itself, that is, a mind existing without a 
body, cannot be an expression of his own view, for elsewhere, 
speaking of “rational and divine natures,” he divides them 
into two classes, “some incorporeal and perceptible only by 
mind, but others not without bodies, such as are the stars,” 
which quite clearly indicates that stars are not, according to 
his own view, without bodies. That this statement does not 
express his own view may be still further shown by a study 
of the meaning and origin of it. The view that stars them- 
selves are minds cannot be traced to any source. But a 
source for it can be found if we take Philo’s statement to 
mean only that both stars and minds are constituted of the 
same element, for in that case it reflects the Stoic view that 

3 s Somn. I, 22, 135, 

Drummond (I, 282-283) presents Philo as believing that the celestial bodies 
are living and rational beings. 

37 Gig. 2, 8. 

38 OpiJ, 50, 144. Cohn {Philos Werki) makes the statement “such as are the 
stars’' refer to “the incorporeal and perceptible only by mind,” which seems to be 
an attempt to remove the apparent contradiction with the other passages. 


both stars and minds are constituted of the element fire, or 
the purest kind of fire called ether,*® and also that minds 
ultimately resolve into ether.'*" Now, we know that Philo 
is opposed to the view that mind consists of any of the ele- 
ments.'*^ Consequently the statement that each star is a 
pure and unmixed mind in itself cannot represent his own 
view. Indeed in that passage in which he expresses his 
own view that the stars are “not without bodies” he also 
describes them as “rational (Xoyi/tal) and divine (0etai).” 
But the term “rational” here in its application to the stars 
does not mean possessing reason any more than the term 
“divine ” means possessing a God or being a God. The term 
“rational” here as a description of the stars merely means 
that the stars are moved according to a certain fixed order 
which can be calculated by reason. Similarly the term “di- 
vine” as a description of the stars merely means that they 
are imperishable, for in that special sense is the term “divine” 
used by Philo himself elsewhere, as, for example, in the state- 
ment that “the soul bears two kinds of offspring, one divine 
{deiov), the other perishable.” '*" 

That Philo did not consider the stars as living beings may 
be still further inferred from his formal classification of the 
various types of living beings in the following passage: “Liv- 
ing nature was primarily divided into two opposite parts, 
the irrational and the rational, this last again into the mortal 
and immortal species, the mortal being that of man, the im- 
mortal that of incorporeal souls which range through air and 
heaven.” “t* It will be noticed that the stars and the celestial 
bodies in general are omitted in this enumeration of living 

Cf. Zeller, III, i<, p. 19a, n. 2; p. 198, n. 5 {Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics’t 
p.ao4,n. 3;p. an,n. 5). 

‘I” Heres 57, 283, and cf. below, p. 400. Leg. All. II, 23, 95. 

Cf. below, p. 391. Con}. 35, 176. 



beings. This denial of the existence of a soul in the celestial 
bodies and the hesitancy of definitely saying that such a soul 
does not exist reflects a similar attitude on the part of Aris- 
totle, who, while he sometimes speaks of the celestial bodies 
as being moved by a soul,'*"' at other times speaks of the 
heaven as being moved naturally (■7re<j>vKe) and in virtue of its 
own nature (/card ri]v lavrov that is, without a soul. 

Perhaps also it reflects the influence of the Epicureans, who 
explicitly deny that “earth and sun and sky, sea, stars and 
moon ” possess vital motion and sense {vitalis motus sen- 

Thus, according to Philo, there are three classes of living 
beings, namely, animals, men, and incorporeal souls. Let us 
now see what he says about these three classes of living 

II. Unbodied Souls or Angels 

Of the rational incorporeal and immortal souls created by 
God and stored away in the air ' not all descend into bodies. 
These incorporeal souls, he says, “ are arranged in companies 
that differ in rank.” ® The difference between these companies 
of incorporeal souls is that some of them are “endowed with 
a diviner constitution ” ® or “ are of a perfect purity and ex- 
cellence,” and hence “have never deigned to be brought 
into union with any of the parts of earth,” ® or “have no 
regard for any earthly quarter,” ® or “have never felt any 
craving after the things of the earth.” ^ This reflects Plato’s 

^4 Cf. De Caelo II, a, 29; 12, 292b, 29. 

Be Caelo I, 2, 269a, 5-7. On the development of this view in Aristotle, see 
Jaeger, Aristotle^ pp. 1 53 ff.; 346 IF. 46 Lucretius, V, 125. 

^ Somn. I, 22, 137. 

® Plant. 4, 14. 

3 Ibid. 

4 Somn. I, 22, 140. 

s Gig. 3, 12. 

® Plant. 4, 14. 

^ Somn. I, 22, 140. 


statements in the Phaedrus with regard to the incorporeal 
souls, which he compares to pairs of winged horses and 
charioteers,* that when any of them is “perfect and fully 
winged, it mounts upward,” whereas that “which has lost 
its wings is borne along until it gets hold of something solid, 
when it settles down, taking upon itself an earthly body.” ® 
But as to what is the cause of the difference between these 
two groups of incorporeal souls so as to make one descend 
into bodies and the other abstain from descending into them 
there seems to be a difference between Plato and Philo. To 
Plato, in the Phaedrus, where the souls are said to be un- 
created,“ the difference must have existed in them from 
eternity, and in the 'Pimaeus, where the souls are said to be 
created,^’' their descent into bodies is ascribed to the law of 
fate.“ To Philo, however, the souls were created by God and 
God acts by absolute freedom of the will,’'^ bound by no law 
of fate; consequently we may assume that the differences 
between these two groups of souls were determined by an 
act of God’s free will, God’s free will is Philo’s universal 
explanation — and to him a satisfactory explanation — for 
anything that cannot be explained by the natural order of 

These incorporeal rational and immortal souls which do 
not descend into bodies, he adds, are what the philosophers 
call demons but what Scripture is accustomed to call angels.^* 
Though in Greek the term angelos in the sense of a heavenly 
messenger is sometimes applied to certain deities, such as 
Hermes,^’' Iris,^® and Nemesis,^’ still it is not used as a tech- 

® Phaedrus 246 a, ? Ibid. 246 c. Ibid. 246 a. Timaeus 41 d. 

Ibid. 41 E, Cf. below, p. 431. Cf. above, p. 329. 

Cf. Drummond, 1 , 337: “No satisfactory explanation is given of tbeir descent 
into the body.” Gig. 2, 6; Somn. 1 , 22, 141 ; cf. also Sacr. 2, 5; Conf. 34, 174. 

Odyssey V, 29; Cratylus 407 e. Iliad II, 786; III, 121, 

Laws IV, 717 D. Cf. G. Kittel, Hheohgisches Worterhuch^ s.v,, I, 73. 



nical term in the sense of special class of beings whose sole 
function is to act as messengers of God. The identification 
of demons with souls which are like all other souls but 
which, because of their greater perfection, do not descend 
into bodies must have been indirectly inferred by Philo from 
Plato’s Phaedrus. In that dialogue, where the incorporeal 
souls are compared to pairs of winged horses and charioteers ““ 
which soar upwards toward the outer surface of the heaven 
from which they behold the ideas which are outside of the 
heaven,^ Plato says that “Zeus, driving a winged chariot, 
goes first” and that “he is followed by an army of gods and 
demons,” “ and then, after describing the life of the “gods,” 
he says: “such is the life of the gods {dtoiv)', but of the other 
souls (al aXXai ■^vxo.i), that which best follows after God and 
is most like him, raises the head of the charioteer up into the 
outer region.” The expression “the other souls” must 
have been taken by Philo to refer to the “demons” men- 
tioned previously as distinguished from the “gods,” and con- 
sequently he inferred that the demons are souls.®** In one 
place, however, souls which do not descend into bodies are 
said by him to be called “heroes ” by Greek philosophers and 
“angels” by Moses.®® The use of the term “hero” here by 
Philo in the sense of “demon ” reflects Plato’s Cratylus where 
the two words refer to the same thing,®® though they are not 

Phaedrus 246 A. 

Ibid, 246 D. 

23 Ibid, 246 E f. 

23 Ibid, 247 E f. 

24 Plotinus {Enneads V, 8 , 10) seems to take the expression “the other souls 
to refer to something distinguished from the “demons”; cf. W. H. Thompson’s 
note in his edition of the Phaedrus^ p. 47, on 246 e. 

There is no other more explicit statement in Plato which could serve as source to 
Philo’s statement that demons are incorporeal souls which do not descend into 

25 Plant, 4, 14. 

26 Cratylus 397 e, 389 c-d. 


used there to mean souls which do not descend into bodies. 
Conscious, however, of the view of Aristotle and some Stoics 
that demons do not exist, Philo warns his readers, with re- 
gard to what he says about demons and angels, “ and let no 
one suppose that what is here said is a myth.” 

As to the permanent abode of these incorporeal souls or 
demons or angels, Philo has three statements. First, they 
“hover in the air,” they were made “in the air ” and “exist 
on high nigh to the ethereal region itself.” Second, they 
“range through the air and heaven.” Third, they are “in- 
habiters of the divine world,” ** by which he means the 
heavens, for elsewhere he says that the heaven consists of 
a “fifth element” which partakes “of a wonderful and divine 
essence.” ^ From all these passages we gather that the 
angels have their original abode in the air, or rather the upper 
part of the air near the heaven, but in their ascent upward 
they traverse the air and reach the heaven, where they es- 
tablish their permanent abode. Now, that the angels are in 
the heaven is not only to be derived from many passages in 
Scripture but also from the Phaedrus of Plato, where the 
demons as well as the gods in their ascent upwards are said 
ultimately to reach “the outer surface of the heaven.” 
But as for his view that air is the original abode of the angels 
or the demons, it must be based upon the Epinomis. In the 
Epinomis, the demons are said to be made of ether. Now 
“ether” in the Epinomis, while called a fifth element,*® is 
placed between air and fire,*^ the latter of which is the ele- 
ment out of which the heavens are made. Accordingly the 

“7 Gig. 2, 7. 

Ihid.^ 6. ^ Cf., e.g., Gen. 22: n. 

29 I>lant. 4, 14; cf. ConJ. 34, 174. 34 'Phaedrus 247 c. 

3 ® Conf, 35, 176. 3s Epinomis 984 e. 

3 ^ in Gen. Ill, ii. 36 Ibid. 981 c. 

3 » Ibid. IV, 8. 37 Jbid. 984 B. 



term ether is used in the Epinomis not in the Aristotelian 
sense as something diiFerent from any of the four elements/® 
nor in the Stoic sense as a purer kind of fire/® but rather in 
the Platonic sense as the purest of the many kinds of air/® 
The demons, furthermore, though made of ether which is 
under the heaven, are said in the Epinomis to move “to the 
whole of heaven with a lightly rushing motion.” Philo 
undoubtedly correctly understood the ether of the Epinomis 
to mean the upper and purer part of air, and consequently 
he says of demons or angels that their abode is the air near 
the heaven and that they “range through the air and 
heaven.” Moreover, in his description of the angels Philo 
dwells upon the fact that “ they are invisible to us ” or that 
they are “wholly beyond apprehension by sense” or that 
“they are not apprehended by sense.” So also the Epino- 
mis says of the demon that “it is not entirely plain to sight: 
when it is near by, it is not made manifest to us.” But 
though he follows the Epinomis in making air the abode of 
the demons, he does not follow it in making air or rather ether 
their constituent element. He describes the demons or 
angels as incorporeal (do-cjjaaToi),'*® by which he means not 
only that they are without bodies but also that they do not 
consist of any of the corporeal elements. They are, accord- 
ing to him, of the same nature as the mind, for, he says, 
“they must be apprehended by the mind, in order that like 
may be discerned by like,” and of mind Philo explicitly 
says that it does not consist of any of the elements. ‘'® 

The functions of angels as described in Scripture are found 

38 Be Caelo I, 3, ayob, 17-25. 

39 Cf. above, p. 313. ^4 Somn. I, 22, 135, 

4 « S^imaeus 58 D; Phaedo iii A 4s Epinomis 984 E. 

41 Epinomis 985 b. 46 Plant, 4, 14J Conf, 35, 176, 

42 Gig, 2, 8 . 47 Gig, 2, 9. 

43 Plant, 4, 14. 48 Cf. below, p. 391. 


by Philo to be the same as the functions of demons as de- 
scribed by Plato. In Plato the functions of demons are de- 
scribed in the statements that they are ‘'interpreting and 
transporting human things to the gods and divine things to 
men; entreaties and sacrifices from below, and ordinances and 
requitals from above/’ and that also through them “ are 
conveyed all divination . . . and all sooth-sayings/’ for 
"the whole of the demoniac is between divine and mortal.” 
So also Philo finds that the functions of angels as described in 
Scripture are that "they both convey the biddings of the 
Father to His children and report the children’s need to their 
Father” and that they also are employed by God “as am- 
bassadors to announce the predictions which He wills to 
make to our race.” One function, however, which Plato 
ascribes to demons is not mentioned by Philo. According to 
Plato, each man’s individual demon guides him after death 
to the place of judgment and from there to the other world.^^ 
A similar view occurs also in the Testament of the Twelve 
Patriarchs, in which the angel of peace is said to meet the 
departed soul and to lead it into eternal life.^^ Similarly, in 
the Talmud the ministering angels are said to announce to 
God the arrival of the righteous man after his departure 
from the world, and God is said to tell them to go out to meet 
the newcomer and to let him enter into peace. In Philo, 
however, there is no specific mention of this as one of the 
functions of angels. But inasmuch as he speaks, as we shall 

49 Symposium 202 e; Epinomis 985 B. 

50 Symposium 202 e. 


52 Somn, I3 22, 141; cf. Gig, 3 , 12; Plant, 4, 14. 

53 Abr. 23, 1 1 5. 

54 Phaedo 107 D. 

55 Testament of Asher 6: 6; cf, Testament of Benjamin 6: i. 

s <5 Ketubot 104a. Cf. A. D. Nock, ‘'Postscript,*’ Harvard Theological Review 34 
(1941), 101-109, where this belief is fully discussed. 



see,®’ of the return of the immortal souls to the divine world 
to dwell among the angels, it is not impossible that he also 
believed, though he does not mention it, that the returning 
souls were escorted or welcomed by angels. 

On the whole, Philo considers the angels as merely a special 
kind of immanent powers in the world. Just as the immanent 
powers in the world are the instruments of divine providence, 
so also the angels are instruments of divine providence; but 
whereas the immanent powers are employed by God in the 
exercise of His care over the world as a whole, the angels are 
employed by him in the exercise of His care only over man- 
kind. “They are consecrated and devoted to the service of 
the Father and Creator whose wont is to employ them as min- 
isters and helpers, to have charge and care of mortal man.” ** 
Inasmuch as both demons, according to philosophers, and 
angels, according to Scripture, are only intermediaries be- 
tween God and men, Philo maintains that the Hebrew term 
mal’ak, angel, which means messenger, is an apter designa- 
tion for these intermediating incorporeal souls than the 
Greek term demon,®’ probably having in mind Plato’s etymo- 
logical explanation of “ demon” as meaning he who is know- 
ing (SariiMv).^ Philo finds in Jacob’s dream of the ladder, 
in which Jacob saw that “the angels of God were ascending 
and descending on it,” a proof-text for this function of 
angels as intermediaries. A striking parallel to this is Plato’s 
statement with regard to demons that “the middle creatures 
move both to earth and to the whole heaven with a lightly 

S 7 CL below, pp. 401 f. 

s8 Gig. 3, 1 a; cf. in Exod. II, 13: angel is an intellectual spirit, nay- 

more, an intellect pure and simple, altogether incorporeal, created as a servant of 
God for a certain purpose and appointed for the performance of services of which 
our mortal race is in need.’* 

59 Somn. I, 22, 141; Plant, 4, I4, 

Cratylus 398 B. 

Gen. 28: 12; cf. Somn. I, 22, 133, and 142. 


rushing motion.” Because of their function as intermedi- 
aries, Philo calls them “the lieutenants (inrapxoi) of the 
Ruler of the universe,” or His servants {vwnpeTai,),^^ or, in 
their totality, “the servant ({iinjpeTijs) and minister (depa- 
irevT'fis) of the Ruler who has marshaled them.” In their 
capacity as the lieutenants and ministers of God in the 
visible world, wherein they are employed by God as the in- 
struments of His providence in connection with the affairs of 
men, they are thus like the immanent powers, which are em- 
ployed by God as the instruments of His providence in the 
physical world at large. The term “powers” is therefore 
sometimes used by him to include both the immanent pow- 
ers and the angels, as in his statement that “ as pillars sup- 
port whole houses, so also do the divine powers support 
(i) the whole world and (2) that most excellent and God- 
loving race of mankind.” Of the two phrases which we 
have set off by numbers, the first undoubtedly refers to the 
immanent powers in general and the second to angels in 
particular. Moreover, sometimes angels themselves are de- 
scribed by Philo as the “powers” of God, reflecting, as in 
the case of the ideas, the scriptural expression the “Lord of 
Sabaoth,” that is, the “Lord of the powers” {Kvpios rSiv 
Swapecov), which sometimes means the Lord of the angels.®* 
But inasmuch as the Hebrew “Sabaoth” means also “ar- 
mies,” and in the expression “ the host of heaven,” which 
refers to the stars, the Septuagint translates the term “ saba ” 
by “army” (o-Tparid),®® Philo calls the angels in their total- 

Epnomis 985 b. 

Somn. 1 , 22, 140. Ibid,y 143. 

fis Conf. 34, 174. 

^ Fragmenta, Richter, VI, 222 (M, II, 662). 

See term “angels’" in Jbr, 23, 115, for which term “powers” is used in 28, 

Cf. above, p. 220; cf. also The Prayer of Manasses 15. 

<^9 Jer. 8 : 2; 19: 13; II Chron. 33:3, 5. 



ity also “army” (crparor) or “divine army” {Belov arph.- 
revpa).’’" For this description of the angels by the term 
“army” he also had before him Plato’s expression “an army 
{(TTpana.) of gods and demons.” It is also to Plato’s de- 
scription of this “army of gods and demons” as a “divine 
company” (Setos that Philo describes the angels also 

as a “most sacred company” {lepiiTaros xop6s).^* Sometimes, 
instead of calling the angels powers, he describes them only 
as “the subordinate servants {vroUaKovoi) of His powers,” 
that is, of the powers which are identified with the ideas con- 
stituting the intelligible world. The same description occurs 
also in his statement that the company of angels which exists 
in the air is “an attendant (6ira56s) upon the heavenly [pow- 
ers],” that is, of the powers through which he has pre- 
viously said that “the incorporeal and intelligible world 
was framed.” The term “heavenly” is used by him here 
in the sense of “incorporeal” or “ideal.” So also is the ex- 
pression “heavenly virtue” used by him in the sense of the 
“idea of virtue.” 

Philo’s treatment of angels, we have thus seen, is as syste- 
matically coherent as his treatment of the Logos and powers 
and ideas. In the case of the latter three, we have dis- 
tinguished three stages of existence. In the first stage, they 
are all in God and are all identical with God, the Logos be- 
ing the mind of God and the powers the content of that 
mind. The term ideas does not happen to be used by Philo 
explicitly as a description of the powers in this first stage of 
their existence. In the second stage, the Logos is a created 
incorporeal mind and the powers and ideas are the content 

Conf. 34, 174; cf. Sacr. 2, 5. 

71 Thaedrus 1246 e f. 

72 Ibid. 247 A, 

73 Conf. 34, 174. 

74 Spec. 1 , 12, 66. 

73 Conf. 34, 174 and 172. 

7 ^ Leg. AIL I, i4j 45; cf. below, II, 20a. 


of that mind, the former describing that content in its as- 
pect as cause and the latter describing it in its aspect as 
pattern. During this second stage of their existence, all 
these three are distinct from God but identical with each 
other. In the third stage, with the world already created, 
the Logos is a mind immanent in the world and the powers 
are its content. The term ideas, again, does not happen to 
be used by Philo as a description of the powers in this their 
third stage of existence. By this interpretation of Philo, we 
have been able to remove all the apparent inconsistencies in 
his treatment of the Logos and powers and ideas. By the 
identification now of angels with a special kind of these im- 
manent powers, all the apparent contradictions in his treat- 
ment of angels are similarly removed. Angels, according to 
Philo, are not ideas. Nor are they powers in the sense of 
ideas. Nor, again, are they called Logoi in the sense in 
which the Logos is called the totality of ideas. If they are 
called powers, .they are called so only in the sense of the im- 
manent powers. Similarly, if they are called Logoi, they 
are called so, as we shall presendy show, only in the sense 
of the immanent Logoi.'^'^ 

Both Plato and Philo discuss the question of why such in- 
termediaries are necessary. Plato says; “ God with man does 
not mingle, but the demon is the means of all intercourse and 
converse of men with gods and of gods with men, whether 
waking or asleep.” Again, the demons as intermediaries 
between God and men “understand the whole of our 

77 On the alleged inconsistencies in Philo's treatment of angels, see Zeller, III, 
2^, pp. 409-414; 430-431. Drummond (II, pp. 147-148) removes these inconsist- 
encies on the basis of his own interpretation of Philo's powers as having two as- 
pects and by identifying angels with the second aspect. On the identification of 
angels with ideas, see Ch. Bigg, ^he Christian Platonists^ pp. ii-ia; H. Leisegang, 
Die Raumtheorie im sfateren Platonismus^ pp. 38-39; cf. also comment on Aucher's 
Latin translation of in Gen. I, 19, above, p. ao6, n. 13. 

7 * Symposium 203 A. 



thoughts, and show extraordinary kindness to any one of us 
who is good and true and hate him who is utterly evil, as one 
who already partakes of suffering, for we know that God, 
who has the privilege of the divine portion, is remote from 
these affections of pain and pleasure, but has a share of in- 
telligence and knowledge in every sphere.” ” So also Philo, 
explaining the role of angels as intermediaries, with evident 
reference to Plato’s statement about demons, says: “not 
that God, who is already present in all directions, needs in- 
formants, but that it was a boon to us to avail ourselves of 
the services of Logoi, acting on our behalf as mediators, so 
great is our awe and shuddering dread of the universal Mon- 
arch and the exceeding might of His sovereignty.” As 
proof-text for this he quotes the people’s plea to Moses at 
the revelation on Mount Sinai: “Speak thou to us, and let 
not God speak to us, lest we die,” and concludes: “For 
should He, without employing ministers, hold out to us with 
His own hand, I do not say chastisement, but even benefits 
unmixed and exceeding great, we are incapable of receiving 
them.” But, as we have already tried to show, the employ- 
ment of intermediaries is part of God’s plan in governing 
the world; He did not employ them because it was impossible 
for Him to act directly.*® The functions which are per- 
formed by the angels are sometimes performed by God him- 
self. This is evident from the fact that even in speaking to 
the people God does not always employ an angel as an in- 
termediary. At the revelation on Mount Sinai, according 
to Philo himself, God himself spoke to the entire people 
directly. *'• 

Following his custom of applying the term Logos to mind, 
whether mind in the sense of the place of the intelligible 

Eptnomis 985 a, 

Somn, I, 22, 142. 

** Exod. 20: 10. 

** Somn, I, 22, 123. 

*3 Cf. above, pp. 271 fF. 
Cf. below. II. 28 f- 


world or mind in the sense of the rational soul of man, he 
also applies that term to those minds or incorporeal souls 
which constitute the angels. The angels are called hy him 
Logoi/5 and each angel which appeared to individual per- 
sons according to the scriptural narrative is called hy him 
Logos.^^ Now the demons, with whom the angels are identi- 
fied by Philo, are according to Plato arrayed in twelve com- 
panies.®7 Similarly, beginning with the Book of Daniel and 
continuing throughout post-Biblical Judaism the angels 
gradually become grouped in certain orders. So also Philo 
considers the angels as being arrayed in certain companies,®^ 
each of them having certain special tasks to perform. Among 
the tasks assigned by Plato to the demons, or perhaps to 
certain classes of demons, is to act as guardians of cities and 
districts.^® So also in Scripture as well as in post-scriptural 
Judaism angels are considered as guardians of nations.^^ 
Among these angels who are guardians of nations, the guard- 
ian of the Jewish nation is especially mentioned by name. 
It is Michael.^^ This guardian angel of Israel is called in 
Scripture ''one of the chiefs'' {apxovro)vy^ and "the great 
chief" (apxcof^),^^ whence we get in post-scriptural Judaism 
the Greek term archangel,^^ that is to say, chief-angel. 
Philo similarly speaks of an archangel,^^ whom he describes 

*5 Somn. I, 22, 142; 23, 147; PosL 26, 91; Leg. AIL III, 62, 177. 

See Leisegang, Indices, under \ 6 yos, IV. 

*7 Phaedrus 247 A. 

Cf. Dan. 10: 13; Enoch 61; lo-ii, 71: 7-13, 

ConJ. 34, 174. 

Laws IV, 713 c ff.; V, 738 d. 

9^ Dan. 10: 13, 20-21; Canticles Rabbah to 8:14. 

9 “ Dan. 10; 21. 

93 Dan. 10: 13. 

94 Dan. 12: 1. 

9 s I Thes. 4: 16; Jude 9; cf. Testament of Levi 3: 5; Apocalypse of Moses 3; 2; 
22: i; 38: i; Secrets of Enoch 20: i; 21: 3; 22: ii. 

9 fi Heres 42, 205; Conf. 28, 146; Somn. I, 25, 157. 



as “the eldest Logos” or as standing “above Logoi” and 
“above angels” like “the charioteer of a chariot.” Now 
when we examine the three passages in which the term arch- 
angel occurs in Philo we find that it is always used in con- 
nection with Israel. In one passage, it is symbolically called 
Israel; in another, it refers to the angel who was enclosed 
within the cloud which “came between the camp of the 
Egyptians and the camp of Israel ” for the protection of 
the latter; in the third, it refers to the angel called the Lord, 
who appeared to Jacob in his dream and promised him that 
the land upon which he lay would be given to him and his 
seed.*°’^ Philo must have found an additional source for the 
belief in guardian angels of nations and of a special guardian 
angel of Israel in the verse which in the Septuagint transla- 
tion reads: “When the Most High distributed nations, when 
He dispersed the sons of Adam, He set boundaries of na- 
tions according to the number of the angels of God, and 
Jacob His people became the Lord’s portion, Israel became 
the lot of His inheritance.” Though this verse is inter- 
preted by Philo allegorically, wherein the term “nations” is 
taken by him to refer to the “nations of the soul” and the 
term “ angels ” is taken by him to refer to “ forms or nations 
of virtue,” still, in this case as in all other cases where he 
interprets Scripture allegorically, the literal meaning of the 
text is not discarded by him. Thus while indeed the name of 
the angel Michael is not mentioned by Philo, it was the 

97 Heres 42, 205, 

9® Somn. I, 25, 157. 

99 Conf. 28, 146. 

*0® Heres 42, 205; cf. Exod. 24; 19-20; cf. Mos, I, 29, 166, and Drummond, II, 

I®* Somn, I, 25, 157; cf. Gen. 28: 13. 

Deut. 32: 8-9. Cf. Sirach 17: 17; cf, Drummond, I, I48-149. 
pcsL 26, 91-92, 


angel Michael, the guardian angel of Israel, whom he had in 
mind when he spoke of the archangel.™** 

These angels, who, being incorporeal souls, are invisible,™^ 
sometimes become visible and appear to men. Philo dis- 
cusses nine instances in Scripture where angels are said to 
have made their appearance to persons either in their waking 
hours or in their sleep, namely, (i ) in the case of Hagar,^“® 
(2) in the case of the three visitors of Abraham,™'' (3) in the 
case of the attempted sacrifice of Isaac,™* (4) in the case 
of Lot,™® (5) in the case of Jacob in his sleep, ^™ (6) in the 
case of Jacob at the ford of Jabok,”' (7) in the case of Moses 
in the burning bush,^™ (8) in the case of the camp of Israel 
at the Red Sea,^^^ and (9) in the case of Balaam.™* As in the 
case of many of the persons and the events in Scripture in 
whose historicity Philo had no doubt, so also in the case of 
angels in whose existence as real beings he had no doubt, 
Philo sometimes interprets their appearance to certain per- 
sons in an allegorical sense. Thus in the case of the three 
visitors of Abraham, two of the visitors are interpreted by 
him in a literal sense as angels,™* and in an allegorical sense 

Goodenough {By Lights Light, pp. 79-80) makes the general statement; “He 
could not possibly have made room for a literal Gabriel or Michael in his thinking.*’ 

Cf. above, p. 370. 

Gen. 16; 7-12; 21; 17-18; ^u, in Gen. Ill, 27-34. 

”7 Gen. 18: 2“I6; cf. Gen. 19; i; Abr. 22, 107 fF., especially 22, 113; 23, 115. 

^0* Gen. 22: 15-18; Leg, AIL III, 72, 203; Abr, 46, 273. 

Gen. 19: 1-22; in Gen, IV, 30. 

Gen. 28; 12; Somn, I, 22, 123 fF, 

Gen. 32: 25-31. Mut, 2, 14; 14, 88. 

Exod. 3; 2. 

“3 Exod. 14: 19. Heres 42, 205-206. 

”4 Num. 22; 22-35. 

^^5 Abr, 22, 1 13; 23, 1 15; and cf. 28, 142-143. 

Concerning the third, who was in the middle, Philo explicitly says; **In my 
opinion that one was the truly Esdstent, who held it fitting that He should be 
present” {ibid,, 143; cf. also references in next note, where the one in the middle is 
definitely said to be God). Still it is not impossible that by "The truly Existent 



as the powers which constitute the intelligible world.’^^® 
Similarly in his homily on the verse “and he saw the angel 
of God standing in his way” in the story of Balaam, he 
says that the “angel of God” allegorically means “convic- 
tion (!D\eyxos), the divine Logos, the angel who guides our 
feet and removes the obstacles before them, that we may 
walk without stumbling along the high road.” Thus also 
in his allegorical interpretation of the angel who addressed 
Hagar as she was seated by a fountain of water in the wilder- 
ness,^^** of the two angels who stayed in Lot’s house in 
Sodom, of the angels which Jacob saw in his dream, and 
of the angels whom he met in Mahanaim ““ prior to his wres- 
tling with a man at the ford of Jabok — in all these in- 
stances he takes angel, which term he identifies with Logos, 
to refer allegorically to conviction, virtue, and the power of 
human reason. But these allegorical interpretations, as said 
before, do not exclude the historical veracity of these narra- 
tives as recording events when angels who are real beings, 
called philosophically demons, made their appearance be- 
fore certain persons.'*'* In his interpretation of the three 
angels who appeared to Abraham as men,'“s he explicitly says 

here,’* just as by *‘Lord*’ in Somn, I, 25, 157, he refers to the Logos or archangel 
(cf. above, p. 378). Gfrbrer (I, 158) argues that the middle figure could not have 
been God himself and tries to prove it from 23, 1 16, where Abraham is called a 

fellow-servant {6{jl65ovKop) of all the three of them. 

JBr. 24, 119-122. Cf. Sacr. 15, 59; ^u. in Gen, IV, 2; Be Deo 2-3, in all of 
which only the allegorical explanation is given. 

^^7 Num. 22: 31. 

Immut. 37, 182. 

Gen. 16: ii; cf. Fug, i, 5-6. i. 

Gen. 19: 4; cf. Conf. 8, 28. 

Gen. 28: 11-12. Somn, I, 19, 115-119. 

Gen, 32: 2-3. 

Gen, 32: 23 fF. Sohr, 13, 65. 

^“4 Cf. discussion in Gfrorer, I, pp. 290, 291, 293; Drummond, II, 243. 

“s Gen. 18: 2. 


that the story has both a literal or open meaning and a hid- 
den meaning/""^ and though he adds that the open meaning 
is “suited for the multitude,” whereas the hidden meaning 
“appeals to the few,” he does not mean that the open 
meaning is not true. 

The angels in the visible world, as we have said, are, ac- 
cording to Philo, the instruments by which God exercises 
His providence over man, just as the powers which con- 
stitute the Logos are the instruments by which God created 
the intelligible world.“* It is for this reason, as we have seen, 
that he sometimes calls the angels powers or the servants 
of the powers.*^'’ Accordingly, just as the powers are divided 
into beneficial and punitive,^^' so also the angels are divided 
by him into beneficial and punitive. Thus two of the three 
visitors of Abraham, in their literal sense of angels, corre- 
spond to the two powers which they allegorically symbolize, 
one being beneficial and the other punitive.’^^^ This, on the 
whole, corresponds to the division of angels into beneficial 
and destructive which occurs in post-scriptural Jewish lit- 
erature.^5* The beneficial angels, according to Philo, are 
employed by God to give to men what he calls “secondary 
boons”; and “secondary,” he explains, “are such as involve 
riddance from ills.” Thus when the angel who has pre- 
served the city of Zoar from destruction is called by Philo 
beneficial,*^*’ it is only in the sense that he brought what he 
calls elsewhere a “secondary boon,” that is, the preservation 

«« Jir. 24, 119; 29, 147. 

*27 Ibid. 29, 147, ^30 Cf. above, p. 374, 

Conf. 34, 171-172 and 174. Cf. above, p. 224. 

Cf. above, p. 373. ^^2 Jhr. 28, 145; cf. 24, 119-121. 

*33 Cf. “good angels’" (II Macc. ii: 6; 15; 23; Tobit 5: 21); “angels of punish- 
ment” (Enoch 53: 3; 56: i; 62: ii; 63: i), “angels of destruction” {Kiddushin 72a). 

*34 Leg. AIL III, 62, 177. 

* 3 s Gen. 19: 21-22. 

* 3 « Abr. 28, 145. 



of the city from the evil that might have befallen it. The 
punitive angels, according to him, are employed by God to 
inflict punishment upon all those who deserve it,'” as, for 
instance, the case of the angels who destroyed Sodom and 
Gomorrah.'^® God himself, however, according to him, gives 
what he calls the “principal boons,” such, for instance, as 
“health in the simplest sense, preceded by no illness in our 
bodies.” It is “principal boons” that Philo refers to 
whenever he says unqualifiedly that “God is the cause of 
good things” or that “it is fitting that He himself should 
extend boons and gifts and benefits.”"*® “Secondary 
boons,” as we have seen, are given by God through angels. 
Similarly, when Philo says that punishment is administered 
by God through angels,'"*^ he does not mean to exclude 
“boons” in the sense of “secondary boons” from being also 
administered by God through angels. Thus also we know 
that his statement with regard to punishment does not mean 
that God may never administer punishment himself. Some 
of the plagues of Egypt, according to Philo, were adminis- 
tered directly by God himself.''*'* There are no inconsist- 
encies in Philo on this point; there are only incomplete state- 
ments which have to be completed by a comparison with 
other statements. 

Both these kinds of angels, the beneficial and the puni- 
tive, are considered by Philo as “having no participation in 
wickedness,” ''** as being “worthy of the name” angel, and 
as being “sacred and inviolate by reason of that glorious and 
blameless ministry,” ''*® for even the punitive angels, in per- 

^37 Conf. 36, 180; Fug. 13, 66. 

^38 145. 

Leg. All. Ill, 62, 177. h3 Conf. 36, 180; Fug. 13, 66. 

Ihid.^ 178. CL above, pp. 282, 349. 

Conf. 36, 180, *45 Conf. 35, 177; cL Genesis Rahhah 48, ii. 

* 4 * Fug. 13, 66, *4« Qig, 16, 


forming their services, carry out the command of God./"*^ In 
fact, “ punishment is not a thing of harm or mischief, but a 
preventive and corrective of sin.” It is for this reason 
that in one place he includes even the punitive angels under 
the general description of angels as “God’s beneficent and 
merciful and bountiful powers.” But Philo speaks also 
of another class of angels whom he calls “evil angels,” first 
referring to them as if they were real beings and then treat- 
ing them allegorically,^*'’ without any formal transition from 
one of these methods of treatment to the other. But here 
one is inclined to take his allegorical explanation to mean 
a denial of their actual existence. As proof-text for this 
class of angels he quotes the verse: “He sent out upon them 
the anger of His wrath, wrath and anger and affliction, a 
mission by evil angels.” From the context of Philo’s dis- 
cussion it is evident that by these “evil angels ” he does not 
mean punitive angels or angels who, as messengers of God, 
inflict evil upon sinners, but rather morally evil angels, who 
are not messengers of God. He describes them as being 
“unholy and unworthy of their title,” and as “slipping 
{vTrodvoixevoL) into the name of angel,” referring in the 
course of his discussion to the fact that “men in general 
speak of good and evil demons, and in like manner of good 
and evil souls.” *** The purpose of this reference is evidently 
to justify the application of the term “ angel ” to the morally 
evil beings, and he does this by referring to the analogy of the 
use of the Greek terms “demon” and “soul.” The reference 
is undoubtedly here to Plato’s explanation of the term 
“demon” as wise and knowing 'S'* and to his explanation of 

'■*7 Fug. 13, 66. 

Conf. 34, 171. 

Hid. 36, 1 8a. Gig. 4, 17. 

Gig. 4, 17-18. Ibid., 16. 

isx Ps. '78: 49. Cratylus 398 B. 



the term “soul” in Greek as the “power which supports and 
holds nature,” and also to Plato’s distinction between a 
good and a bad soul and to the Stoic distinction between 
good and bad demons.*®^ Now, argues Philo, just as the 
terms “soul” and “demon” may apply to the bad soul and 
the bad demon, even though the bad soul does not support 
and hold nature and the bad demon is not wise and know- 
ing, so also the morally evil angels may be called angels, even 
if they are not messengers of God. 

Who these morally evil angels are he does not say. But one 
may gather whom he means from his explanation of them 
allegorically as those who “know not the daughters of right 
reason, i.e., the sciences and virtue, but count the mortal 
descendants of mortal men, i.e., pleasures mortal as their 
parents.” From this interpretation it may be inferred that 
he means by the evil angels those “sons of God” who, ac- 
cording to the story in Scripture, “saw the daughters of men; 
and they took them wives of all which they chose.” By 
the time of Philo these “sons of God” were taken to refer to 
a class of fallen angels who had revolted under the leader- 
ship of Satan and who were each individually called 
Satan.*®* Now what Philo wants to say here is that these 
“sons of God,” which is only another term for angels,*®* 
after their fall have forfeited their right to be called angels; 
they should be called Satans; and, if they are still called 
angels, though qualified by the term “evil,” in that verse 

Ibid. 400 B. 

Laws X, 896 E fF, Plato does not speak of bad demons. 

Plutarch. ^aesHones Romanae 51 ; Defectu Oraculorum 17; cf. Zeller, 

III, 14 , p, 329, n.3 {Stoics^ Epicureans and Sceptics^, p, 353, n. 3). 

Gig. 4, 17. 

Gen. 6; 2. Ibid. 54: 6; 69: 5. 

Cf. Enoch 6-16. 

Philo has here the reading ^‘angeV’ {Gig. 2, 6). So also in Job i : 6 and 
2: 1, the “sons of God” of the Hebrew reads in the Septuagint “angels.” 


which he has quoted as his proof-text, it is only in the same 
way as the Greeks speak of bad demons and bad souls. The 
expression “ slipping into the name of angel ” seems to reflect 
the scriptural verse “The sons (Septuagint: angels) of God 
came to present themselves before the Lord, and also Satan 
came among them.” The expression “and also Satan 
came among them” is evidently behind Philo’s expression 
“slipping into the name of angel.” What he means to say is 
that these “evil ones” who in Scripture are called “evil 
angels” should properly be called “Satans,” but they are 
“slipping into the name of angel” in the same way as when, 
in the Book of Job, “ the angels of God came to present them- 
selves before the Lord,” it is said that “also Satan came 
among them.” 

III. Animals and the Irrational Soul of Man 

Unlike Plato, to whom the lower animals are degraded 
types of human beings,^ Philo, following the scriptural ac- 
count of creation, considers all the lower animals as having 
been created.® But, like Plato,^ supported by the story of 
creation in Scripture,'' he divides living beings into three 
classes — fishes, birds, and land-animals ® — declaring that 
“of creatures that have a soul fishes were the first 

which He created ” and then “ after the fishes He created the 
birds and land-animals.” ® In accordance with the scriptural 
sentence “Let the waters produce reptiles having living 
souls,” ’’ we may assume that Philo believes that the souls 

Job. 1:6; 2; I. 

^ Timaeus 91 ]>~92 c; 42 c. 

* Opt/, 20, 62. 

5 Tintaeus 39 e; 91 D-92 c. 

4 Gen. 1 : 20-25. 

s Oplf, 20, 62-21, 64. 

IMd, 21, 66. 

7 Gen. i: 20 (LXX). 



of these lower animals were created together with their 
bodies; and, in accordance with his own general theory of 
ideas, we may also assume that he believed that just as the 
bodies of these living beings were created after the pattern 
of certain ideas of living beings so also were their souls 
created after the pattern of the idea of their souls.* The 
difference between creatures which have souls and those 
which have no souls is stated by him in several installments. 
In one passage he says that the difference between them is 
that besouled creatures have sensation; » in another passage 
he says that the difference between them is that besouled 
creatures have imagination {4>avTa<rla) and impulse 
adding that imagination is dependent upon sensation; " and 
in the third passage he says that the difference between them 
is that besouled creatures have sensation, imagination, and 
impulse." All this reflects Aristotle’s statements that sensa- 
tion is that which differentiates animal from plant," that 
imagination is never found by itself apart from sensation,^* 
and that animal cannot be appetitive {6p€ktik6v), that is, 
cannot have what Philo calls impulse (oppii), without imagi- 
nation.*'' According to Plato, plants have both sensation and 
desire (eTriSujuIa).** 

This kind of soul, called irrational (aXo^oy),** is possessed 
also by man. But in connection with man Philo gives us a 
fuller account of the creation as well as the nature of his irra- 
tional soul. This irrational soul of man was created by God 
when He formed man “out of the matter scattered here and 

* Cf. above, pp. 213-214. ” Immut, 9, 4I. 

^ OpiJ. 20, 62. ” De Anima 11 , 2, 413b, 2. 

“ Leg, All I, II, 30. « Ibid, III, 3, 427b, 15-16, 

Ibid, III, 10, 433b, 28-29, Piiilo uses 6p€^ts and bpyd) as equivalents; cf. e.g., 
Leg, All III, 38, 1 1 5, and 39, 118. 

Itimaeus 77 b. 

See Leisegang, Indices^ under rb SiKoyov. 


there, which Moses calls clay.” The irrational soul to- 
gether with the body was, however, created not by God 
himself but rather by His powers, who did it by “imitating ” 
(juijaovM&ats) the skill shown by God in forming the rational 
soul.'* In this he follows Plato who likewise says that the 
irrational soul together with its body was created by the 
secondary deities by “imitating” (jiinovy^voi) the Demiurge,’’ 
but he finds a scriptural proof-text for it in the use of the 
plural in the verse “Let us make man.” 

Though Philo refers to this irrational soul as earthlike 
(7€ct)5?7s),” he does not mean that it is made of the element 
earth, for we have Aristotle’s testimony to the fact that 
while the elements air, water, and fire were considered by 
various philosophers as being each a constituent of the soul, 
none of them considered the soul as being made of earth ex- 
cept those who have described it as being derived from, or as 
being identical with, all the four elements, which included 
earth." It is hardly conceivable that Philo should depart on 
this point from the generally accepted philosophic view. 
What he means by the term “earthlike” is simply that the 
soul is corporeal. As to what it was actually made of, Philo 
seems to be undecided. Sometimes he suggests that the 
irrational soul is blood, as when he says that “in many pas- 
sages the Law of Moses pronounces the blood to be the es- 
sence of the soul,” but this statement is sometimes quali- 
fied by him by the statement that “in real truth the breath 
(irvevfia) is the essence of the soul, but it has not any place 
of itself independently of the blood, but is carried in and 

^7 AIL I, 12, 31; Gen. 2: 7; for the expression “scattered here and there,** 
see tanhumah^ Pekude, § 3, and Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews,!, pp. 54 ~ 55 j’^jPP’ 
71-72, nn. 14 and 15. 

^8 Fug, 13, 69; cf. Opif, 24, 74-75; Conf, 35, 179. Timaeus 69 c. 

Gen. i; 26. " De Anima I, 2, 405b, 8-10. 

« Leg, AIL 1 , 12, 32. « Deter, 22, 80; Heres ii, 55; Spec. IV, 23, 123. 



mingled with the blood.” Sometimes he seems to suggest 
that the soul is the seed (cnrepixa), which he also calls the 
moist substance (pypi. ovcia), as when he says that “seed is 
the principle of the generation of animals,” that is to say, 
it is that with which animal life begins and by which animals 
are differentiated from plants. But here, too, he qualifies his 
statement by adding that “nature, like an artificer, or, to 
speak more correctly, like a consummate art, forms living 
creatures, by distributing the moist substance to the limbs 
and different parts of the body, the breathlike (rvejpaTiKf]) 
substance to the faculties of the soul, namely, the nutritive 
and the sensitive.” Sometimes he suggests that breath, 
which he calls air {ai]p), without blood or seed, is the soul, as 
when he says that “the Artificer made air as habit in 
motionless bodies and as nature {(pixnv) in bodies which move 
but without a faculty of imagination, while in bodies that are 
susceptible of impulse and imagination He made it as soul 

Though Philo names no authorities for the different views 
as to the substance of the soul which he happens to mention, 
except for the scriptural verses in connection with the identi- 
fication of soul with blood,®* the three views which he hap- 
pens to mention can be identified with three views known in 
Greek philosophy. The view that soul is blood is attributed 
to Critias; *** the view that it is the seed or the moist sub- 
stance is implied in the view attributed to Hippon that the 
soul is water because “in all animals the seed is moist”; 
the view that it is air is attributed to Diogenes.^® Like the 

Frapnenta on Gen. 9: 4, Richter, VI, p. 1230 (M, II, 668); Harris, Fragments^ 
p. 26; cf. Drummond, I, pp. 320-321. 

Opif. 22, 67. 29 Dg Anima I, 2, 405b, 5-8. 

Ihid. 30 Ihtd^^ 405b, 1-5. 

Somn. I, 22, 136, 31 Ihid.^ 405a, 21-25. For “breath/’ 

Lev. 17: II. Cf. above, n. 23. see Arnim, II, 777 IF. 


Stoics, he also speaks of it as fire.^ Following Plato, he di- 
vides this irrational soul into two parts, the irascible (fivnubv) 
and the concupiscent (imdvjirjTiKdv), locating the former in 
the chest and the latter in the abdomen.^s But, drawing also 
upon other conventional classifications of the faculties of the 
soul which were common in his time, like Aristotle, he divides 
this irrational soul into the nutritive {dpe-nriKbv) or vital 
{^(jiTLKbv) faculty and the sensitive {aiard'qTuhv) faculty,^'' or, 
like the Stoics, he divides it into seven faculties, namely the 
five senses, speech, and generation.** 

IV. The Rational Soul of Man 

Animals have only an irrational soul.' But man, in addi- 
tion to his irrational soul, has also a rational soul or mind.* 
“I,” says Philo, “am many things, soul and body, and of 
soul there is a rational part and an irrational part.” * Un- 
like Plato in the Phaedrus but like Plato in the ^imaeus, he 
holds that this rational soul was created, and just as in the 
^imaeus of Plato the rational was created by God himself,* 
so also in Philo that which is rational in us was formed by 
God himself.® But then he departs from Plato. According 
to Plato, there was no idea of mind nor any idea of soul; but 

3 * Cf. BecaL 25, 134; above, pp. 203-204; Arnim, II, 773 S. 

33 Leg. AIL III, 38, 1 14; Spec. I, 29, 146-148; Spec. IV, 15, 93. Cf. ^imaeus 
69 E-70 E. 

34 Fragmentay on Gen. 9:4, Richter VI, 230 (M, II, 668); Harris, Fragments y 
p. 25; cf. Be Anima II, 3, 414a, 32-4i4b, i; 4, 415a, 23-25, and see also Drum- 
mond, I, 319. 

3 s Opij. 40, 1 17; Leg. All. I, 4, ii; Beter. 46, 168; Agr. 7, 30; Heres 48, 232. In 
Abr. 5, 29, generation is omitted. Cf. Arnim, II, 823-833. 

^ There is a special treatise by Philo on this subject, entitled; Alexander y she de 
eo quod rationem habeant hruta animalia (Richter, VIII, 101-148). 

* Cf. above, p. 362. 

3 Leg. All. Ill, I, 2. 

4 Fhaedrus 246 a. 

s fimaeus 69 c. 

* ConJ. 35, 179; Fug. 13, 69. 


39 ° 

instead there was a universal mind existing probably from 
eternity, and a universal soul which was created by God 
prior to the creation of the world out of three ingredients — 
the same stuff as the ideas, the stuff of matter, and a mixture 
of the stuff of ideas and the stuff of matterd According to 
Philo, there are ideas of mind and soul, both of them created 
by God when he formed the intelligible world on what the 
Pentateuch calls the first day of creation.* He therefore 
speaks of the human mind as "the mind created after the 
image and idea,” ® or as being "a closer likeness and copy 
than anything else on earth of the eternal and blessed idea,” “ 
or as a "divine image ” and as " being shaped after the arche- 
typal idea, the most sublime Logos.” “ In the same sense, in 
another passage, after having described the idea of soul as 
the "image of God” “ and a “pattern,” he speaks of the 
“human mind ” as a “ fragment of that divine and blessed soul 
from which it cannot be separated,” that is, an image of the 
idea of rational soul, which is as immaterial as its pattern. 

Following Plato in the Timaeus, according to whom, after 
God compounded the human rational soul, “He divided it 
into souls equal in number to the stars,” Philo says that the 
rational souls created by God in the image of the idea of mind 
were “equal in number to the stars.” But then he departs 
again from the 1‘maeus. Whereas according to the l^imaeus 
these souls prior to their descent into bodies were placed in 
the stars,*'' according to Philo, prior to their descent into 
bodies they had their abode in the air.** Then, again, follow- 

7 timaeus 34 b ff. 

® Opif. 7, 29; cf. above, p. 307. *3 Ibid,^ 87. 

9 Leg, AIL 1 , 13, 4a. IHd,^ 90. 

Decal, 25, 134. *5 timaeus 41 D. 

Spec, III, 36, 207; Heres 48, 230, 234; cf. Opij, 23, Somn, I, 22, 137. 

« Deter, 24, 86. timaeus 41 d. 

Somn, 1 , 22, 135 and 138, But see above, p. 369, about the abode of angels. 


ing Plato, he applies what Plato says about his preexistent 
universal mind and soul to his individual mind and soul. 
Just as Plato says of his preexistent universal mind and soul 
that the Demiurge “constructed mind within soul and soul 
within body because without soul mind cannot dwell in any- 
thing,” so also Philo says of the individual mind and soul 
that “ by the senses the Demiurge endowed the body with a 
soul ” and placed over them mind as a dominant part to be 
served by them, because “without the perception of the 
senses, mind by itself alone was unable to apprehend ” colors, 
sounds, flavors, scents, and the like.” 

Though only images created after the pattern of an idea, 
these rational souls are not corporeal. Unlike the soul of 
Plato, they have no admixture of matter; they are made of 
the same stuff as the ideas after which they are modeled. 
“This branch of the soul,” he says of mind, “was not formed 
of the same elements out of which the other branches were 
brought to completion, but it was allotted something better 
and purer, the substance in fact out of which divine natures 
were wrought.” By the term “divine natures” here he 
means the incorporeal intelligible beings or ideas.” Denying 
that mind is “breath” or “blood” or “body in general,” he 
declares that it is “no body but incorporeal.” In another 
place he speaks of Abraham as having mounted up into the 
“incorporeal soul of this body of ours.” ®‘' Consequendy, 
with all his departure from Plato in details, Philo considered 
himself essentially a follower of Plato and his school, to whom 

^imaeus 30 b » Opf, 48, 139. Immut. 10, 46. 

" Leisegang {Philos Werke) and Colson, ad loc.^ take the “divine natures” here 
to refer to the stars. But see discussion of this passage in Drummond, I, 33a. Cf. 
also in Drummond, I, 32^-335^ his discussion of all the passages on the basis of 
which the conclusion was drawn that Philo was not altogether free from a material- 
istic conception of the rational soul. 

=3 Somn, I, 6, 30, DsUr, 44, 159, 



he refers as “ those who maintain that the faculty of reason- 
ing comes in from without, being divine and eternal.” 
Also, following Plato, he assigns to the rational soul a loca- 
tion in the body different from the locations he assigned to 
the irrational parts of the soul,*® that location being, as in 
Plato, the head,*^ though it might also be, according to 
Philo, the heart.®* The heart is the place where the Stoics 
locate the entire soul with all its faculties, for to them the 
rational faculties of the soul do not differ in their origin from 
the irrational faculties. When Philo, however, assigns the 
heart as the seat of the rational soul, he still retains the chest 
and the abdomen as the two seats respectively of the irascible 
and concupiscent faculties of the irrational soul.*“ Unlike 
the irrational soul, therefore, of which the faculties are parts 
located in different parts of the body and operating through 
various organs of the body, “our mind is indivisible in its 
nature.” Faculties indeed it has, such as intelligence 
{orvve<ns), sagacity {^yxlvoia), apprehension {Kara\r]\J/is), 
prudence (<f>p6v7)(ns), “and other powers.” *® But these 
faculties are not parts of the rational soul in the sense in 
which the faculties of the irrational soul are parts; they are 
rather only functions of the soul which are not located in 
different parts of the body and do not operate through dif- 
ferent organs of the body. 

Between the rational and the irrational soul there is, ac- 
cording to Philo, somewhat of a reciprocal relation. On the 
one hand, as we shall see,** the irrational soul is dependent 

=*5 Opif. 11, 67. 

Cf. above, p. 389. Diogenes, VII, 159. 

=7 Spec, IV, 15, 92; cf. Timaeus 69 e; 90 a. 30 Cf. above, p. 389. 

Deter. 24, 90; Somn, I, 6, 32. 31 Heres 48, 232. 

32 Congr, 18, 98. A list of powers of the rational soul mentioned by Philo in 
various places, without an attempt to classify them, is given in Drummond, I, 343. 

33 Cf. below, 11 , 4. 


for the proper functioning of its faculties upon the rational 
soul. On the other hand, as we shall also see,^‘* the rational 
soul makes use of the data of sensation furnished by the 
irrational soul to form rational concepts. Then, also, the 
rational soul, as again we shall see,^® is graced by God with 
the power of free will by which it can control the desires and 
emotions of the irrational soul. 

Just as Philo has used the term Logos as the equivalent of 
the term mind in the case of the mind which is the place of 
the intelligible world,^'® so he now also uses the term Logos as 
the equivalent of the mind which is in man. He thus uses the 
term Logos as a description of that part of the soul which is 
the opposite of both the irascible and the concupiscent parts 
of the soul.*^ In Plato the opposite of these two irrational 
parts of the soul is similarly described by the term Logos 
or mind,^’ or by such equivalent terms as “the immortal 
soul,” ‘'® “the supreme form of soul within us,” and the 
“rational part.” •'* But just as the immanent Logos in the 
world so also this Logos in man has its source in the pre- 
existent Logos which is the totality of all the ideas constitut- 
ing the intelligible world. Accordingly, in one passage, after 
having referred to the preexistent Logos and the Logos in man 
as two Logoi, “ one the archetypal Logos above us, the other 
the copy of it which we possess,” he refers to them after- 
wards as “the mind with us and the mind above us.” 

Another term used by Philo as the equivalent of mind is 
“breath” or “spirit.” Now this term “breath” or “spirit” 
is applied by the Stoics to the rational and the irrational 

Cf. below, II, 3. “ Cf. below, p. 431. Cf. above, p. 230. 

37 Spec. IV, 15, 92; Firt. 3, 13; cf. Leg. All. I, 22, 70 (\o7ik6v); III, 38, 115 


3 * ^imaeus 46 D. Republic IV, 439 d (XayLirnKdp), 

39 Ibid, « Heres 48, 230; cf. also 233, 

Ibid, 69 D"E. Ibid,^ 236. 



soul alike; in Philo, however, the term “breath” which he 
applies to mind differs, both in origin and in meaning, 
from the term “breath” (irwujua) or “air” (di^p) which, as 
we have seen, he applies also to the irrational soul.*'® In its 
application to the irrational soul the term “breath” is of 
Stoic origin and it means something corporeal; in its appli- 
cation to mind it is of scriptural origin and it means some- 
thing incorporeal. The scriptural proof-text for the latter 
use of the term, quoted by Philo, is the verse “and God 
breathed into his face a breath of life.” The difference be- 
tween these two meanings of the term “ breath ” is brought 
out by Philo himself in his explanation that the “ breath of 
life” which God breathed into Adam was “not air in mo- 
tion, but a certain impression and character of divine power, 
which divine power Moses calls by an appropriate name 
image,” that is to say, it is an image of the idea of mind 
which is itself called image. 

Still, in his desire to state his philosophic views in terms 
current among philosophers of his time, even though these 
terms do not literally express the exact meaning of his views, 
he does not hesitate to make use of a Stoic statement that 
“ the soul is of ether, a divine fragment.” But to show that 

Cf. above, p. 388* “Breath** is also used by Philo for the element “air** 
{Sacr, 29, 97). 

Gen, 2: 7, The term used in the Septuagint for “breath** here is irvoii. In 
five places {ppif, 46, 134; Leg. AIL I, la, 31; Plant. 5, 19; Heres ii, 56; Somn. I, 6, 
34), Philo, in quoting this verse, uses the same term. In two places {Leg. AIL III, 
55, 16 1 ; Deter. 22, 80), he uses the term irvev^a. In one place {Spec. IV, 24, 123), 
he uses first the former term and then substitutes for it the latter term. The two 
terms are thus used by him interchangeably. Still in another place {Leg. AIL I, 
13, 42) he distinguishes between these two terms. The term TTpeOjua, he says, applies 
to the rational mind when conceived as something created “ after the image and 
idea,** i.e., after the idea of mind, without reference to its connection with the 
irrational soul; the term iri'oij, on the other hand, refers to the rational mind when 
conceived as connected with the irrational soul created of matter. 

Deter. 23, 83. Cf. above, p. 238. 

-<9 Leg. AIL III, 55, 161; Somn. I, 6, 34; cf. Diogenes, VII, 143; cf. 156. 


he does not mean this statement to be taken literally, he says 
that while “others, by asserting that our mind is a portion of 
the ethereal nature, have claimed for man a kinship with 
ether,” Moses by his statement that God “breathed into his 
face a breath of life” did not mean to liken “the species of 
the rational soul to any created thing, but averred it to be a 
genuine coinage of that divine and invisible breath ” which 
God breathed into Adam. The term “fragment” is also 
used by him elsewhere figuratively, as when he says that 
“every man, in respect to his mind (diavota), is allied to the 
divine Logos, having come into being as an impression or 
fragment or ray of that blessed nature,” or as when he says 
that the rational faculty (Xoyiariios) is “ a fragment of the uni- 
versal soul, or as it might be put more reverently, following 
the philosophy of Moses, a faithful impression of the divine 
image,” that is, an image of the idea of mind which is it- 
self called image.5* “Impression,” “fragment,” and “ray” 
are thus the terms by which he figuratively describes the es- 
sence of the mind as an incorporeal image of the idea of 
mind. It is in this sense that he also explains the “divine 
spirit” which God breathed into Adam as “an efiFulgence of 
the blessed and thrice-blessed nature of God.” Here as 
elsewhere, use is made by Philo of the Stoic vocabulary, but 
there is a departure from the Stoic doctrine. 

V. Immortality of the Soul 

Besides irrationality and rationality, corporeality and in- 
corporeality, these two souls in man are also distinguished 
from one another by mortality and immortality. The irra- 
tional soul is corruptible (/pSapTriY and mortal {9vt\Tit)y’‘ 

S“ Plant. 5, 18. Mut. 39, 223. 

SI Opif. 51, 146. SJ Cf. above, p. 238. s< Spec. IV, 24, 123. 

’ 13> 69. 

I Leg. All. 1 , 12, 32. 



whereas the rational soul or mind is incorruptible (6.<i)dapTos)^ 
and immortal (adavaTos).'* This reflects again the view of 
Plato, to whom the irrational soul is the corruptible and mor- 
tal soul whereas the rational soul is the incorruptible and 
immortal soul.* Following Plato’s statement, in his com- 
parison of the soul to “ a pair of winged horses and a chari- 
oteer,® that “the natural function of the wing is to soar up- 
ward” ’’ and that “each soul returns to the place whence it 
came,” * he says that the souls which are immortal “soar 
back to the place whence they came.” ® But unlike Plato, 
who, in those passages upon which Philo has drawn in his 
discussion of immortality, speaks of the soul not only as im- 
mortal but also as ungenerated,” Philo considers the soul 
which is immortal as generated.^' Again, unlike Plato, with 
regard to whose view on immortality there is doubt as to 
whether the individual human soul is itself immortal as a 
distinct entity or is immortal only through the universal 
soul with which it becomes united,” in Philo, because of his 
denial of a universal soul,^* immortality means the eternal 
persistence of the individual soul as a distinct entity. 

But by the time of Philo, in Judaism, partly as an internal 
development and partly through foreign influences, certain 
definite beliefs about the hereafter of the individual had come 
to the fore. Resurrection of the body and immortality of 
the soul are the two forms which that belief took, the former 
primarily among Palestinian Jews, the latter primarily among 
Hellenistic Jews. As in the case of all beliefs or customs 

5 Immut. 10, 46. 

^ Prohus 7, 46; 18, 97; Spec. 1 , 16, 81. 

s 'Pimaeus 69 c. 9 Qig. 3, 13. 

^ Phaedrus 1246 a. Phaedrus 246 A. 

7 Ibid. 246 D ” Cf. above, p. 389. 

* Ibid, 248 E. 

Discussed in our introductory volume on Greek philosophy. 

Cf, above, pp. 360, 389-390. 


which appeared in Judaism after the Biblical period, attempts 
were made to find the origin of these beliefs in scriptural 
texts. The Palestinian rabbis directly raised the question: 
“Whence is it proven that resurrection is a belief based upon 
Scripture?” and in answer to this question they quoted all 
sorts of proof-texts.'^ Jesus, in answer to the Sadducees who 
denied resurrection, found a scriptural proof-text for that be- 
lief in the verse “I am the God of Abraham and the God of 
Isaac and the God of Jacob,” on which he comments that 
“ God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Hel- 
lenistic Jews undoubtedly must have also been engaged in a 
similar search for proof-texts. A repercussion of such a 
search is to be noticed in the Wisdom of Solomon where the 
author says: “Better than this is childlessness with virtue, 
for in the memory of virtue is immortality.” What the 
author is really trying to do in this verse is to quote as proof- 
text for the belief in the immortality of the soul a verse from 
Isaiah with regard to childless persons who keep justice and 
do righteousness. Concerning such childless persons God 
says: “I will give them, in my house and within my walls, a 
memorable place, better than sons and daughters; I will give 
them an everlasting name which shall not cease.” We can 
almost hear the voice of the author asking himself, after the 
manner of Palestinian rabbis: “What does the expression ‘an 
everlasting name which shall not cease’ mean?” And his 
answer is, again after the manner of Palestinian rabbis: 
“You must admit, it cannot mean anything else but im- 
mortality.” It is not surprising therefore that Philo should 
also look for a scriptural proof- text in support of the belief in 

Sanhedrin 91b. 

^5 Exod. 3; 65 16. 

Matt, aa: 32; Mark 12: 26-27; 37 ’' 3 ^' 

^7 Wisdom of Solomon 4: i. 

Isa. 56: 5 (LXX). 



the immortality of the soul. The proof-text which he pro- 
duces is the verse in which God says to Abraham, ''But thou 
shalt go to thy fathers nourished with peace, in a goodly old 
age.”^’ Commenting on this verse, Philo says: ''He here 
clearly indicates the incorruptibility of the soul, when it 
transfers itself out of the abode of the mortal body and re- 
turns as it were to the metropolis of its fatherland, from 
which it originally migrated into the body,” for “what else 
is this but to propose to him and set before him another life 
apart from the body ? ” 

But what is that “fatherland” intimated by the term 
“ thy fathers ” in Scripture to which the soul returns ? Before 
giving his own view on the subject, Philo discusses three 
other views, which, from the manner in which they are in- 
troduced by him, would seem to have been current among 
Hellenistic Jews who had adopted them from Greek philoso- 

“Some affirm,” he says, that the term “thy fathers” re- 
fers to “the sun, moon and other stars.”” This evidently 
reflects the view of Chrysippus, according to whom immortal- 
ity, which to him is confined to the wise, means that the soul, 
which consists of an element similar to that of the stars, will 
upon the death of the body mount to heaven and there as- 

« Gen. 15; 15 (LXX). 

in Gen. Ill, ii. A similar interpretation of Gen. 15: 15 as referring to the 
doctrine of the immortality of the soul is implied in the following verse in IV Macc. 
18: 23: ‘‘But the sons of Abraham, with their victorious mother, are gathered to- 
gether unto the place of their fathers, having received pure and immortal souls 
from God/' The expression “gathered together unto the place of their fathers" 
is undoubtedly an interpretation of the expression “thou shalt go to thy fathers" 
in Gen. 15:15. Furthermore, the interpretation of the scriptural words “thy 
fathers" as meaning “the place of their fathers (irarkpcap x^poi^)" is analogous to 
Philo's interpretation of the same words as meaning “ the metropolis of its father- 
land {metrepoUn patriae)** Incidentally, this analogy would seem to indicate the 
reading xfipov of Codex Alexandrinus rather than the reading %opi>v of Codex 
Sinaiticus. “ Heres 57, 280. 


sume the spherical shape of stars," and it will continue to 
exist in that condition for as long as the world continues to 
exist, that is, until the general conflagration. For this view 
of immortality, these anonymous interpreters of the words 
“thy fathers” must have found support in the scriptural 
verse, “And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of 
the firmament; and they that turn the many to righteousness 
as the stars for ever and ever.” It must have been a com- 
bination of these two sources that is also behind such state- 
ments about the immortal souls in the Apocalypses as “And 
they shall be made equal to the stars ” or “ It is shown unto 
them how their face is destined to shine as the sun, and how 
they are destined to be made like the light of the stars ” or 
“Now ye shall shine as the lights of heaven.” 

“Others think,” he continues, that the term “thy fathers” 
refers to “the ideas in which, as they say, the mind of the 
sage finds its new home.” Now there is nowhere in Greek 
philosophy a direct statement that the immortal souls after 
death find their home among the ideas. But the view re- 
ported here by Philo is evidently based upon a combination 
of two statements made by Plato in the Republic. In one 
statement he suggests that the ideas have their abode in the 
“intelligible place” (tottos j'ojjtos),*® by which he means the 
heaven.®’ In another statement he says that those souls 
which are not relegated to the nether region are sent up to 
heaven where they are to live for a certain period of time.®* 
From the combination of these two statements, those anony- 

” Zeller, III, i*, p. 205, n. 4 {Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics^, p. 218, n. 1). 

« Dan. 12: 3. 

II Baruch 51 : 10. ” Hcres 57, 280. 

« IV Ezra 7: 97. RepuHic VI, 509 D-510 b; VII, 517 b-c. 

=« Enoch 104: 2. ” Cf. above, p. lorj. 

5 “ Republic X, 614 c ff.; cf. L. Robin, La fMorie platonicienne de V amour, p. 84; 
E. Br£hier, La Phibsophic de Plotin, pp. 28-29; P. Shorey’s note in his translation 
of the Republic, ad loc. 



mous “others” must have inferred that the immortal souls 
are sent up to heaven there to live among the ideas, and 
hence they interpreted the term “ thy fathers ” to mean the 

“Others again have surmised that by ‘fathers’ are meant 
the four first principles and potentialities of which the world 
is composed, earth, water, air, and fire,” and into which all 
things in the world “are resolved.” To this general state- 
ment, he adds that, in the final resolution of all things into 
their elements, the soul will resolve into ether, of which the 
soul is a fragment and which some ancients considered as a 
fifth substance.^* With the exception of the reference to 
ether as a fifth substance, which is an Aristotelian view,^'* 
this interpretation of the term “thy fathers” reflects the 
view of those Stoics who believe that the soul of each in- 
dividual upon the death of the body is reabsorbed into the 
universal soul, that is, the primary fire or ether, of which it 
is only a part.*® 

None of these three views could be acceptable to Philo. 
He could not accept the view that the souls become stars, 
for to him the stars are made of the element fire,*® whereas 
the immortal souls are immaterial. *'f For the same reason 
he could not accept the view that the souls are resolved into 
the primary fire or ether. Nor could he accept the view that 
the souls go back to heaven to dwell there among the ideas, 
for to him the ideas are not in heaven, but rather in the in- 
telligible world, which is not the same as heaven.*® His, own 
view is that the souls, on departing from the bodies, do in- 
deed go back to heaven, but there they rejoin that company 

3 * Heres 57, aSi, 3s Diogenes, VII, 156. 

5 ® in Gen. Ill, ii; cf. Heres 57, 18 1. 36 Cf. above, p. 313. 

33 Heres 57, 283. 37 Cf. above, p. 391. 

3 -t Be Caelo I, 3, a7ob, 17-25. 38 Cf. above, pp. 227 f. 


of souls which have never descended into bodies, namely, 
angels. This view is expressed by him in a variety of ways in 
several passages. 

In one passage, dealing with that verse about Abraham’s 
going to his fathers, he says: “But to me he appears to in- 
tend to indicate the incorporeal substances and inhabiters of 
the divine world, whom in other passages he is accustomed to 
call angels.” Now by the “divine world” he means here 
the heavens, for in another place he says that the heavens 
consist of a fifth element which partakes “of a wonderful 
and divine essence,” and by “angels,” of course, he means 
here what he elsewhere identifies with incorporeal souls or 
demons.'*’' Accordingly, the native home of the soul to which 
it returns after death is the heavens, where it joins the angels 
or demons, who are pure souls which have never entered into 

This view is expressed more explicitly by him in his com- 
ment upon the scriptural euphemism for death, “he was ad- 
ded to his people,” used with reference to Abraham."*® Taking 
the expression “ to his people ” to mean “ to the people of 
God,” "** he interprets “ the people of God ” to refer to angels, 
and therefrom he concludes that upon his death Abraham 
became “equal to the angels.” ‘'‘* It is, therefore, in the sense 
of angels that he uses the term “the unbodied,” when in a 
description of the immortality of the soul he says that “we 
who are here joined to the body, creatures of composition 

39 in Gen. Ill, ii. Cf, above, p. 367. 

Ibid. IV, 8 . 43 Gen, 25: 8. 

^3 This interpretation of the words “ to thy people” is described in in Gen. 
IV, 153, as being allegorical. 

Sacr. 2, 5. In IV Macc. 13: 17, the statement that “when we shall have suf- 
fered thus, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will receive us, and the fathers will praise 
us” would similarly seem to imply that the fathers, including Abraham, who are 
immortal souls and whose place is evidently the heaven (cf, above, n, ao), have 
become equal to angels. 



and quality, shall be no more, but shall go forward to our 
rebirth, to be among the unbodied (juera dtrcojudrcoj') without 
composition and without quality.” 

This view, that the immortal souls find their final abode 
in the heavens by the side of the angels or demons, reflects 
the view of Plato in the Phaedrus. According to Plato in 
that dialogue, the place to which the soul by its natural 
function soars is “the place where dwells the race of the 
gods,” and that place is “ the outer surface of the 
heaven,” that is, the outer surface of the outermost or 
eighth sphere, and from that position these immortal souls 
behold the ideas which reside “outside the heaven ” or in the 
“supercelestial place,” which, according to our interpre- 
tation, refers to the infinite void which surrounds the world.'*’ 
By the “race of gods” in this passage Plato means demons, 
whom Philo here calls angels. The same view is expressed 
also in the Apocalyptic literature in such statements as 
“They shall be made like unto angels” and “Ye shall 
become companions of the hosts of heaven.” In the Tal- 
mud and Midrash, too, the imperishable souls of the right- 
eous are said to be welcomed by angels or to abide in the 
seventh heaven alongside the various orders of angels or to 
minister before their Creator like the ministering angels.®* 

The heaven, which is the home of the angels, is thus the 
place of the immortal souls. But it is by no means the place 
of all the immortal souls. When Abraham was going back to 
his “fathers” to be “added to the people of God” he was 
indeed going back to heaven to be among the angels;®® not 
to the intelligible world to be among the ideas. And similarly 

« Cher. 3a, 1 14. 
Phaedrus 246 d. 
Ihid, 247 c. 

Ihid, 247 c, 

Cf. above, p. 227. 

s® II Baruch 51; 10, 

^ Enoch 104: 6. 

5 * Ketuhot 104a; Ifagigah I2b; Midrash 
ha^Qadol on Gen. 50: 26. 

S 3 Sacr. 2, 5. 


Jacob, when he was “added to the people of God,” went back 
to heaven to be among the angels.®"* So also Elijah, who did 
not die but was “carried up with a whirlwind as it were into 
heaven,” ®® went up there to be among the angels.®® And 
probably so also all the righteous whose souls are immortal 
find their abode in heaven among the angels. But there are 
a few exceptions among scriptural personages. When Isaac 
died, the Septuagint does not translate the Hebrew by “he 
was added to his people ” but rather by “ he was added to his 
race or genus (y^ros).” ®^ Now the term “genus,” as we have 
seen, is used by Philo as a description of the ideas.®* Hence 
he infers that Isaac did not go to be among the angels who 
are in heaven but rather among the ideas which are in the 
intelligible world, which is not the same as heaven.®’ So also 
Enoch, of whom Scripture says that, while yet alive, “ he was 
not found, because God translated him,” did not go to 
heaven to be among the angels, “but it is here suggested that 
he was translated from a sensible and visible place into an 
incorporeal and intelligible idea,” that is, into the intelligi- 
ble world of ideas, which is not the same as heaven. Follow- 
ing a certain widespread Jewish tradition, Philo includes 
Moses among those who, like Enoch and Elijah, did not die 
but were translated to heaven during their lifetime. But 
“when he had to make his pilgrimage from earth to heaven 
and leave the mortal life to become immortal,” ®® he did not 
take up his abode, as did Elijah, among the angels in heaven, 
nor did he take up his abode, as did Enoch, among the ideas 

54 Cf. Sacr, 2, 5. 

55 II Kings 2: II (LXX). 

5 ® ^u. in Gen. I^ 86. 

57 Gen. 35*. 29. 

Sifre Deut.y § 357, on 34:5; Sotah 
the Jews 161,0.951. 

<>3 Mos. 11 , 51, 288; cf. 291, 

s 5 Cf. above, p. 25^^. 

59 Sacr. 2, 6. 

Gen. 5*. 24, 

^u. in Gen. I, 86. 

Sacr. 3. 8; cf. Ginzberg, ^e Legends of 



in the intelligible world, but he is among those “whom God 
has advanced even higher, and has enabled them to soar 
above all species and genera and stationed them beside him- 
self,” and in proof of this he quotes the verse, “ But as for 
thee, stand thou here with Me.” 

Thus, according to Philo, there are three places to which 
immortal souls may go. First, to heaven to be among the 
angels, which is the place for all the immortal souls. Second, 
to the intelligible world to be among the ideas, which is the 
place to which Isaac and Enoch went. Third, to the presence 
of God, above the intelligible world, which is the place to 
which Moses went. 

Throughout his writings Philo speaks of the immortality 
of the soul rather than of the resurrection of the body. No 
direct or indirect reference to resurrection as distinguished 
from immortality is ever made by him,®* though the belief in 
resurrection was common among the Egyptians of his own 
native country and though also it is mentioned in the Sibyl- 
line Oracles.*^^ But it is quite evident that all the references 
to resurrection found in the traditional literature of his time 
were understood by him as being only a figurative way of 
referring to immortality. It is on account of this, we imagine, 
that he constantly draws upon the traditional vocabulary of 
resurrection to express his view of immortality. The belief 
in resurrection is expressed in Scripture in the following 
verses: “Thy dead shall live, my dead bodies shall arise,” 
or as it is rendered in the Septuagint: “The dead shall be 

<54 Sacr , 3, 8. 

fis Deut. 5: 28 (31). 

^ The question Where was my body before birth, and whither will it go when 
I have departed?” 32, 114) has no reference to the problem of resurrection. 
It only expresses a general state of wonderment, just as the subsequent question 
“Where is the babe that I once was?” 

Sibylline Oracles III, 66; IV, 187-191; cf. Josephus, II, 8, ii, 154. 

Isa. 26: 19. 


raised up again, even they in the tombs shall be raised up.” 
“And many of them who sleep in mounds of earth shall be 
raised up, some for everlasting life, and some for disgrace and 
everlasting shame.” In the Second Book of Maccabees it 
is expressed in the following verses: “The King of the world 
shall raise us up, who have died for His laws, unto everlasting 
recovery of life” {ava^lwcns ^corjs)J‘’ “But doubtless the 
Creator of the world, who formed the generation of man, and 
found out the beginning of all things, will also of His own 
mercy give you breath and life again (t&Xij').” “So he 
died, calling on Him who is Lord of life and breath to restore 
them to him again (•n-dXw).” The distinctive mark of all 
these descriptions of resurrection is that it is conceived as a 
new life. In the Second Book of Maccabees the expressions 
used are “recovery of life” and to “give breath and life 
again.” Philo applies these expressions to immortality and 
describes it as a new birth {-iraXiyyeveaLa).''^ Elsewhere, in 
connection with the vocation of Moses, he uses in the same 
sense the expression “second birth” (Sevrepa that 

is, a new or second birth to a life in which the soul is free from 
the body. Such a restatement of the immortality of the 
soul in scriptural terms of the resurrection of the body is 
common in all the writings which consciously turned cor- 
poreal resurrection into something incorporeal. Thus the 
Ethiopic Enoch expresses itself in the language of bodily 
resurrection when it says that “the righteous shall arise 

^ Dan. 12: 2 (LXX). Ibid, 7: 23. 

70 II Macc, 7: 9. 7 “ Ibid, 14: 46. 

73 Cher, 32, 1 14, Cf. the expression another life (altera vita)*' in^u. in Gen. Ill, 
II, quoted above, p. 398, n. 20. 

74 Exod, 24; 16. 

7 s ^u, in Exod, II, 46; Harris, Fragments^ p. 61, The Latin translation adds 
after secunda natimtas, within parentheses, she regeneratio. On the “second birth” 
in this passage, see Br6hier, p. 24a; Goodenough, By Lights Eighty pp, 226-227, and 
A. D. Nock’s review, in Gnomon, 13 p. 1 59* 



from their sleep,” for what it really means is a new incor- 
poreal life, since it is only “ the spirits of you who have died 
in righteousness” that “shall live and rejoice.” The term 
“palingenesis” is indeed used by the Stoics, and Philo 
himself uses it in their name in his restatement of their 
theory of the destruction and renewal of the world. But, as 
is his custom, in his adoption of this term, he used it as a 
description of a view which he considered as being of scrip- 
tural origin.®" 

In Plato, though all the souls return to the place whence 
they came, they do not all return there at the same time. 
The first to reach that place is the soul “which best follows 
after God and is most like him,” ®’^ that is, “ the soul of him 
who has been a guileless philosopher or a philosophical 
lover.” ®“ Among the Stoics, Chrysippus is reported to have 
said that only the souls of the wise continue to exist until the 
general conflagration.®^ In Judaism, the two forms of the 
hereafter of the individual, resurrection and immortality, 
were considered as rewards for righteous conduct during 
one’s lifetime. “For to know Thee is perfect righteousness; 
yea, to know Thy dominion is the root of immortality.” *'♦ 
So also Philo, reechoing the words of Plato, says that those 
which “soar upwards back to the place whence they came” 

Enoch 91: 10; cf. 92: 3. 

Ibid, 103: 4. Cf. Berakot 17a. 

Cf. Arnim, II, 627 and 593. 

79 Mt, 17, 85; 18, 93; 19, 99; 19, 103. 

L. Cohn {Philos Werke on Cher. 114) and Goodenough {By Lights Lights p. 
376) maintain that Philo has borrowed this term from the mysteries. Colson and 
Whitaker (Appendix to 114) maintain that he has borrowed it from the 
Stoics. From whomever Philo has directly borrowed this term, he must have come 
to use it by the process of reasoning we have tried to describe. 

** Phaedrus 248 A. 

Ibid. 249 a; cf. Phaedo 82 b. 

Diogenes, VII, 157. 

Wisdom of Solomon 15; 3. 


are “ the souls of those who have given themselves to genuine 
philosophy” ** and that “immortal life” awaits “pious 

But what happens to the unrighteous and the sinners? 
According to Plato, the soul by its very nature is indestructi- 
ble and cannot therefore be destroyed by the wickedness of 
the body.*’ Whether this refers to the individual soul or to 
the universal soul is a question which is of no concern to us 
here at present.®* The main point is that the soul of the 
wicked, according to him, is indestructible in the same sense 
as the soul of the righteous. All that the wickedness of the 
body can do to the soul is to cause it to have to go through 
certain stages of reincarnation in beasts ®’ or a certain period 
of purification in a purgatory.’® Whether of the righteous or 
of the unrighteous, “each soul,” he says, “returns to the 
place whence it came in ten thousand years.” Among the 
Stoics there was a question whether the soul is individually 
indestructible, at least before this our world is destroyed by 
the general conflagration, and also whether there is a dis- 
tinction in this respect between the soul of the righteous and 
the soul of the wicked. According to some, the individual 
soul ceases to exist immediately upon the death of the body 
and is at once absorbed in the universal soul,’® As against 
this view, Cleanthes is reported to have said that “all souls 
continue to exist until the general conflagration.” ” Others, 
however, are reported to have said that “the souls of the 

" Gig- 3 , 13-14- 

Post, II, 39. 

Rep^ X, 610 A. 

Discussed in our introductory volume on Greek philosophy. 

"Pimaeus 4a b iF.; 91 D fF.; Pkaedrus 249 B. 

9® Phaedrus 249 a; Laws X, 905 A fF. 

91 Phaedrus 248 E. 

9 = Diogenes, VII, 156; cf. above, p. 400. 

93 Diogenes, VII, 1 57. 



foolish and of irrational animals perish together with their 
bodies,” *’■' and still others are reported to have said that the 
soul of the foolish does not perish immediately when freed 
from the body but continues to abide by itself “for certain 
periods of time.” Philo himself refers, in a general way, to 
these various views of the Stoics in a passage in which he 
reproduces the following question concerning the soul: 
“When we die, is it extinguished and destroyed together 
with our bodies, or does it continue to live a long time.^” 
Neither the Platonic view with regard to the reincarnation 
of the souls of the wicked nor the Stoic view with regard 
to either the immediate or the retarded destruction of the 
souls of the wicked implies a belief in individual providence 
and individual reward and punishment. According to Plato, 
reincarnation follows wickedness by the necessity of a pre- 
determined law of fate.*^ As for the Stoics, the immortality 
of the individual soul of the wise, according to those of them 
who hold this view, is due only to the fact that the soul, con- 
stituted as it is of a different element than the body, is 
stronger than the body and does therefore survive it; and the 
destructibility of the soul of the wicked, according to them, 
is similarly due only to the fact that such a soul has been 
weakened by the action of the body and has thereby lost its 
power of survival.’® 

In Judaism, however, with the firmly established belief in 
individual providence and individual reward and punish- 
ment, both resurrection and immortality are considered as 
acts of individual providence, coming to each individual as 
a reward or a punishment for his actions. With regard to 

Dielsj Doxogra^hi Graeci^ P- 47i> li* Arnim, II, 809, p. 223, L 24. 

w Diels, op, cit.y p. 471, 11 . ao-ai; Arnim, II, 808, p. 223, 1 . 21. 

5^ Somn, I, 6, 31. 

97 Timaeus 41 £”-42 d . 

Discussed in our introductory volume on Greek philosophy. 


resurrection, it is definitely stated that certain types of 
wicked persons will not be resurrected.” With regard to 
immortality, those in Judaism who have adopted this belief 
similarly speak of it as a reward reserved only for the right- 
eous but denied to the wicked. Thus in the Wisdom of 
Solomon, in contrast to the righteous, of whom the author 
says that their “hope is full of immortality,”’^” he says of 
the wicked that “void is their hope,” and in contrast to 
virtue the “memory” of which, he says, “is immortal- 
ity,” he says again of the wicked that “their memory shall 
perish, ” though he figuratively speaks also of their being “in 
grief.” So also the Palestinian author of the Psalms of 
Solomon, quite evidently speaking only of immortality, says 
that “the inheritance of sinners is destruction and dark- 
ness,” “the sinner shall perish forever,” and “when I 
was far from God, my soul had been wellnigh poured out 
into death.””® Similarly Philo says that “awaiting those 
who live in the way of the impious will be eternal death.” 

All these statements by themselves, it must be admitted, 
are not conclusive, for the “eternal death” spoken of by 
Philo may be taken in a figurative sense. It is in such a 
figurative sense, in fact, that students of Hellenistic Jewish 
literature usually take all the references to the death or 
perdition of the soul of the wicked that are to be found both 
in Philo and in the Wisdom of Solomon,”® the assumption 

99 M. Sanhedrin X, 1-4. 

100 Wisdom of Solomon 3: 4. 

Ihid, 3: II. 

Ihid. 4: 1. 

Ibid, 4: 19. 

Psalms of Solomon 15: ii (10); cf. 14: 6 (9). 

Jhid. 15; 15 (13); cf. 15: 13 (12). Ibid. 16: 1-2. Pqu. ii, 39. 

Cf. Dahne, I, 331, n, 402: **Philo entscheidet sich also fiir eine immortalitas 
animi naturb nicht gratia*' Drummond, speaking of the allusions to the hopeless- 
ness and perishability of the wicked in the Wisdom of Solomon, says (I, 213): “But 



evidently being that, inasmuch as the belief in the immortal- 
ity of the soul must have come to them from Plato, like Plato, 
they must also believe in its indestructibility. But in view of 
Philo’s repetition of the Aristotelian principle that nothing 
created can be immortal, and in view also of his own expla- 
nation of the immortality of the created world as being due 
to the providence of God,”’ it logically follows that the soul, 
by virtue of its having been created, must by its own nature 
be mortal, and that, if the soul of the righteous is immortal 
at all, it is so only by the providence of God as a reward for 
righteous conduct. Consequently, since it is only by the 
providence of God that the soul of the righteous ceases to be 
mortal, it is quite reasonable to assume that the soul of the 
wicked never ceases to be mortal and never acquires im- 
mortality. The mere fact that Philo is in agreement with 
Plato as to the immortality of the soul does not necessarily 
mean that he must also be in agreement with him as to its 
indestructibility. Throughout his philosophy, as we have 
seen so far and as we shall see again, Philo constantly modi- 
fies Plato’s philosophy by introducing into it some new ele- 
ment. The new element which he has introduced into the 
Platonic doctrine of the immortality of the soul is the possi- 
bility of its destruction in the case of the wicked, a possibility 
which logically follows from his belief that its immortality 
in the case of the righteous is due only to an act of divine 

But Philo, as we have seen,*” departs from Plato in that 
he believes there is an idea of mind. Accordingly, to him the 

even if we had not the example of Philo to support us, we might fairly speak of the 
souFs death when we refer, not to its extinction, but to the forfeiture, through sin, 
of its highest and truest life.” Again, speaking directly of Philo, he says (I, 339): 
“Accordingly Philo treats it (the soul) as in its very nature immortal** 

Cf. above, p. 316. 

Cf. above, p. 213. 


individual mind in each man is only an image of the idea of 
mind. The mind, concerning which he says that it may be 
either immortal or perishable, depending upon the kind of 
life it has lived during its existence in the body, refers there- 
fore only to the individual mind in man, which is one of the 
many individual minds created by God as images of the idea 
of mind. The idea of mind itself, the prototype of all the in- 
dividual minds, though also created, is like all other ideas 
imperishable, and with the imperishable idea of mind there 
is also an imperishable idea of humanity, the idea of an un- 
interrupted continuity of an animal species which is en- 
dowed with a mind. Individual men are indeed all perish- 
able, and individual souls of certain men, the wicked men, 
are also perishable, but mind-endowed mankind, with all 
its righteous and wicked men, is imperishable. Accord- 
ingly, Philo feels that, despite his denial of the universal im- 
mortality of individual souls, he can still speak of some kind 
of universal immortality — the immortality of the uni- 
versal idea of mind as well as the immortality of the image of 
that universal idea in the human species as a whole. For such 
a kind of universal immortality he had before him the 
precedent of Aristotle. When Aristotle was forced by his 
conception of the soul to deny the immortality of the in- 
dividual human soul, he held out as a consolation the im- 
mortality of the human race. “Since, then, individual 
things are incapable of sharing continuously in the eternal 
and the divine, because nothing in the world of the perish- 
able can abide numerically one and the same, they partake 
in the eternal and divine, each in the only way it can, some 
more, some less; that is to say, each persists, though not in 
itself, yet in a representative which is specifically, not 
numerically, one with it.” Evidently with this statement 
De Anima II, 4, 4ljb, 6-7. 



of Aristotle in the back of his mind, Philo argues that noth- 
ing in the world is really perishable, inasmuch as the species 
to which every individual thing belongs is eternal.”* The 
individual musician or scholar or the individual prudent and 
temperate and courageous and just and wise man indeed 
dies, but music and scholarship and all the various virtues 
never perish. It must be so, he argues, “unless we are to say 
that the death of some individual man has wrought destruc- 
tion on mankind.” Knowing, however, that at his own 
time there were philosophic speculations as to what the con- 
cept of “mankind” was, he dismisses such speculations as 
irrelevant to the problem at hand. “What ‘mankind’ is, 
whether a genus (yevos) or an idea (ibia) or a conception of 
the mind (ivvorjiia), or whatever we may call it, is a matter 
for the decision of those who make exactness in the use of 
terms their study.” The three terms he uses here as possi- 
ble descriptions of the universal term “mankind” refer 
respectively to the views of Aristotle, Plato, and the Stoics 
with regard to universals. This emphasis upon the immortal- 
ity of the human race, however, is not used by him, as it is 
by Aristotle, as a substitute for the immortality of the 
human soul; it is used by him, as we have been trying to 
show, as supplementary to it. Similarly, following certain 
statements of Greek philosophy, he sometimes speaks of 
“the true Hades,” Hades being the Septuagint translation 
of the Hebrew Sheol, as “ the life of the bad, a life of damna- 
tion and blood-guiltiness, the victim of every curse,” by 
which he means that the punishment of sin consists in the 
torture of conscience in this world.”® But by this, too, he 

Cf. above, p, 208. 

^^3 Deter, ai, 75-77; cf. J^r. 38, 166--168; ii, 55. 

“4 Deter, ai, 76. 

“3 Congr. II, 57; cf. Heres 9, 45; Somn. I, 23, 1 51. 

Cf. above, p, 42, 


does not mean to deny the punishment of sin after death; 
it is again used by him only as supplementary to it. 

VI. Conclusion, Influence, Anticipation 

Incorporeal things, to Philo, are not necessarily generic 
things, and particular things are not necessarily corporeal 
things. The paradigmatic ideas are both generic and in- 
corporeal. But the images modeled after the ideas, which 
are particular things, may be either corporeal or incorporeal. 
Thus, for instance, according to Philo in departure from 
Plato, there is an idea of soul and an idea of mind, and yet, 
as for the particular images of these ideas, there is a difference 
between them. The particular images of the idea of soul are 
corporeal; the particular images of the idea of mind are in- 
corporeal. The images of the idea of soul, according to Philo, 
are particular irrational souls which were created by the 
powers at the behest of God out of the elements water, air, 
or fire, and they were created together with the bodies in 
which they exist and from which they remain inseparable. 
But as for the images of the idea of mind, they are particular 
minds or rational souls which were created by God himself 
as pure incorporeal beings, free of the admixture of any of the 
elements, and, as pure incorporeal beings, immediately upon 
their creation, they were stored away by God in the air for 
future disposition. 

Though all these rational souls were created by God as 
pure incorporeal beings, they were created by Him with 
certain differences in the purity and excellence of their con- 
stitution. These differences, created in them by the inscru- 
table will of God, account for the main difference in the 
subsequent history of the two principal classes of them. 

One class of these rational souls, those which by the will 
of God were created of greater purity and excellence of con- 



stitution, never descend into bodies. They always remain un- 
bodied souls. From their original abode in the air, where 
all rational souls have been stored away upon their creation, 
they move upward to the heavens, where their permanent 
abode is. Philo calls these unbodied rational souls by the 
scriptural name “angels” and identifies them with the 
demons in Plato. The function of the angels, on the whole, 
is like that of the immanent Logos or powers in the world, 
which is to act as agencies of divine providence. But, as 
distinguished from the immanent Logos or powers, angels 
are the agencies of divine providence only in connection with 
men. Philo therefore describes them as messengers who 
“both convey the biddings of the Father to His children and 
report the children’s need to their father.” Because they 
are like the immanent powers or Logos, they are also called 
powers — that is, immanent powers — or servants of the 
powers — that is, servants of the incorporeal powers in the 
intelligible world — or Logoi — that is, immanent Logoi — 
and each individual angel who appears to man is sometimes 
similarly called Logos, that is, an immanent Logos. Though 
invisible, these angels in their appearance to men sometimes 
assume visible forms. Among the various specific functions 
of the angels is their function of acting as the guardians of 
nations, including the Jewish nation. The guardian angel 
of the Jewish nation is referred to by Philo as the archangel 
or the eldest Logos, meaning thereby undoubtedly the angel 

Since angels are a special class of immanent powers in the 
world, like the powers, they are divided into beneficial and 
punitive. Both these classes of angels act by the command 
of God as intermediaries between Him and men. But both 
punitive angels and beneficial angels perform functions 
which are sometimes performed by God himself. Angels are 


used as intermediaries, thus, not because the actions per- 
formed by them cannot be performed by God or are not suit- 
able to be performed by God, but only because God in His 
wisdom decided that it was the best way, in certain instances, 
to deal with men for their own good. Both beneficial and 
punitive angels, as messengers of God, are therefore God’s 
sacred and blameless powers in the world. As distinguished 
from these angels, who are angels in the true sense of the 
term, Philo finds that Scripture speaks of “evil angels,” by 
which is not meant punitive angels but rather morally evil 
beings, loosely called angels, who do not act as messengers of 
God. Though Philo is vague in his description of this class 
of angels, his reference undoubtedly is to those evil beings 
which by his time were already known as the fallen angels. 

Another class of the rational souls, those which by the 
will of God were created of inferior purity and excellence of 
constitution, descend into bodies. There is only one class of 
bodies into which these rational souls descend, and that is 
human bodies. They do not descend into the bodies of 
animals below man nor into the bodies of the celestial spheres 
or planets or stars, though Philo refers to some philosophers 
who held that the celestial bodies are living and rational 
animals. While encased in the human body, the rational soul 
affects the life of the body and is affected by it. On the one 
hand, it helps the process of sensation induced into the body 
by the irrational soul within it, and, on the other hand, it 
utilizes the data of sensation for the formation of intellectual 
concepts. More especially does it exercise control over the 
body by its power of free will, with which it was endowed 
by God. But still, even while in the body, it never loses its 
character as a distinct entity, so that when the body with its 
inseparable irrational soul dies, the rational soul departs and 
enters upon its bodiless eternal and immortal life. The place 



where rational souls abide during their immortal life varies. 
Some of them go up to heaven, by which is meant the as- 
tronomical heaven, to abide among the angels; some of them 
go up to the intelligible world, to abide among the ideas; 
some of them go up even higher, to abide in the presence of 
God. Immortality, however, is not due to rational souls by 
their own nature; it is a gift from God, and God who created 
them can also destroy them; consequently only the souls of 
the righteous who have earned the gift of immortality sur- 
vive, while those of the wicked may be destroyed. 

In the subsequent history of philosophy, whether Chris- 
tian or Moslem or Jewish, various views appeared, drawn 
from various Greek philosophers, with regard to the nature 
of the soul, its definition, and its faculties, but in all of them 
stress was laid on certain fundamental principles which, as in 
Philo, were considered as essential to what was considered 
true religion. As in Philo, the soul was considered as some- 
thing created, though there were diflFerences of opinion, cor- 
responding to the same differences of opinion with regard to 
the creation of the world, as to what is meant by the term 
creation when used with regard to the soul, and there were 
also differences of opinion as to whether the soul is preexistent 
or not. As in Philo, the soul was considered as something 
separable from the body and as existing as a distinct individ- 
ual entity within each human body, though there were 
differences of opinion as to what is meant by the individual- 
ity of the soul as a distinct entity. Some thought that each 
soul enters the human body as a distinct individual entity; 
others, like Avicenna, and, in a somewhat different sense, 
Averroes, contended that the soul enters the body not as a 
distinct individual entity but rather as a part of the Active 
Intellect, a sort of universal soul, and that only subsequently, 
through the acquisition of knowledge during its existence in 


the body, acquires its distinctness and individuality. As in 
Philo, immortality was taken to mean the continuance of the 
existence of the soul as an individual and distinct entity, 
though the question was discussed whether in its state of 
immortality it will stand as a distinct individuality quite 
apart from all other similarly individual souls, or whether, 
again as contended by Avicenna and, in a different sense, by 
Averroes and their respective followers, during that state of 
immortality it will be absorbed in the Active Intellect whence 
it originally came, but somehow, in some inexplicable man- 
ner, will retain its acquired individuality. Finally, as in 
Philo, immortality was considered not as something due to 
the soul by its own nature, but rather as a gift from God, 
which can be taken away, and hence the soul was considered 
as something destructible, though there were various ex- 
planations as to what is meant by the destructibility of the 

Philo’s refusal to commit himself on the question of whether 
the celestial bodies have souls and minds and his denial of the 
possibility of arriving at any positive solution of this ques- 
tion ^ are reflected in subsequent philosophy. Among the 
Church Fathers, Origen says: “Regarding the sun, moon, 
and stars, whether they are living beings or without life, 
there is no distinct deliverance,” “ though he himself believes 
that they are “living and rational beings.” ’ Such also is the 
belief of Tatian and Jerome.® John of Damascus, on the 
other hand, denies that the heavens or the celestial bodies 
are living beings.® St. Augustine is undecided and leaves the 

^ Somn. I, 4j 23; cf. above, p. 363. 

® De Principiis I, Praefatio, i. 

3 IMd, I, 7, 2-3. 

4 Oratio ad Graecos, Cap. 12. 

3 In Ecclesiasten, on i:6 (PL, 23, 1068). 

® De Fide Orthodoxa II, 6 (PG, 94, 885 a-b). 



matter in doubt.'' Later the problem was reopened by St. 
Thomas.* In Arabic Moslem philosophy the view that the 
celestial bodies are living beings is challenged by Algazali,® 
and in Arabic Jewish, as well as in Hebrew, philosophy the 
view that the celestial bodies are not living beings is either 
directly or indirectly expressed by Saadia,” Judah ha-Levi," 
Crescas," and Isaac Arama.'^ 

Similarly in the treatment of angels, subsequent philoso- 
phies, whether Christian, Moslem, or Jewish, continued to 
dwell upon certain elements which Philo treated as essential 
to the scriptural doctrine of angels. As in Philo, angels were 
considered as real beings, though it was maintained that not 
every term “ angel ” in Scripture is to be taken to refer to a 
real angel,^'* and though also there was a difference of opinion 
as to whether the term “angel” in Scripture does ever refer 
to the powers of irrational beings. Maimonides affirmed that 
it does,^® whereas St, Thomas objected to Maimonides and 
maintained that it does not.*® As in Philo, angels were con- 
sidered as created beings, though among the Church Fathers 
the question was raised as to whether they were created be- 
fore the creation of the world or with its creation. Origen, 
followed by others, maintained that they were created be- 

7 De Genesi ad Litteram 11 , 18, 38 (PL, 34, 279); Enchiridion^ Cap. 58 (PL, 40, 

* Summ, neoL I, 70, 3. 

5 Tahdfut aUEaldsiJah XIV (ed. M. Bouyges, pp. 239-246). 

Emunot we-Be'ot I, 3 (8); VI, 3. 

” Cuzari IV, i. 

Or Adonai I, i, 6. 

^3 ^Alpedat Yisha^ II, ed. Pressburg, pp. i6a~i7b. 

The discussion of this question in Algazali and in Jewish authors is dealt with by 
the present writer in his Crescas* Critique of Aristotle, 1929, pp. 535-538. 

Thus the term "‘angel’* in Scripture is said sometimes to mean a prophet (cf. 
Justin Martyr, Dialogus cum Trypkone, Cap. 75; Maimonides, Moreh Nebukim 11 , 
6) or any godly man (cf. St. Augustine, Be Civitate Dei XV, 23, PL, 41, 408). Cf. 
below, n, 45. 

^ Moreh Nehukim 11 , 6. 

Sum. theoL 1 , 50, 3 c 


fore the corporeal world/^ whereas others maintained that 
they were not created before the world. According to St. 
Augustine,*® with whose view St. Thomas agrees,*’ they were 
created on the first day of creation. In a Midrash, it is 
definitely denied that the angels were created on the first day 
of creation, and while according to one rabbi they were 
created on the second day, according to another they were 
created on the fifth day.*® As in Philo, they were considered 
as incorporeal beings, though there were differences of 
opinion as to the nature of their incorporeality. Thus, to 
take but one example, St. Thomas argued against Avicebron, 
denying the latter’s assertion that angels, though incor- 
poreal, are composed of matter and form,®* As in Philo, at- 
tempts were made to identify angels with some incorporeal 
beings provided by philosophers in their scheme of the uni- 
verse, though not always, as in Philo, with the demons of 
Plato. In the Middle Ages they were sometimes identified 
with the Intelligences of Aristotle. 

Spinoza, in his grand assault upon traditional philosophy, 
by his denial of the existence of incorporeal beings, denies the 
existence of angels and also the existence of a soul as some- 
thing separable from body. Among the heresies of which he 
was accused in his youth are said to have been the denial that 
God is incorporeal and with it the denial also that angels 
exist and that the soul is something different from the prin- 
ciple of life.*® Later in his correspondence he writes to a 
friend: “I see that you are not so much philosophizing as, 
if I may say so, theologizing; for you are writing down your 
thoughts about angels, prophecy and miracles. But perhaps 

*7 De Principtis III, 5, 3. 

** Be Cimtate Dei XI, 9. Genesis RaHah i, 3. 

*9 Sum* TheoL I, 61, 3 c. ” Sum, TheoL I, 50, 2 c. 

Lucas, La Fie defeu Monsieur de Spinoza, in A. Wolf, "f he Oldest Bio^aphy of 
Spinoza (London; G. Allen & Unwin, Ltd. [1927]), pp, 45-46 and 97-98. 



you are doing this in a philosophical manner.” Judging by 
his own philosophizing about prophecy and miracles/'* we 
have reason to believe that by philosophizing about angels 
he means the denial of their existence. His own philosophiz- 
ing about the soul, however, is not a denial of its existence 
as something distinct from the body; it is only a denial of its 
separability from the body. As in most of his criticism of 
traditional philosophy, he returns to classical Greek phi- 
losophy as it had been before it became Hebraized by Philo. 
In this case, he returns to the philosophy of Aristotle in its 
Neoplatonized medieval form, restating its views in his own 
terms and in his own geometrical method. 

Now in Aristotle, the view that soul is distinct from body 
while at the same time it is also inseparable from it is ex- 
pressed in his conception of the soul as being the form of the 
body. Being form, it is distinct from body, which is its 
matter; being the form of the body, it must be inseparable 
from body, as form must inevitably be inseparable from its 
matter. But in Spinoza, Aristotle’s matter and form become 
respectively the attributes of extension and thought in God 
and the immediate infinite modes of these attributes, called 
respectively “the absolutely infinite intellect” and “mo- 
tion,” and of these two the human body and the human 
mind are respectively finite modes. He therefore says of the 
human mind that it is a “part of the infinite intellect of 
God ” or that it is the idea of the human body, that is 
to say, the form of the human body, and as a result of this 
conception of the human mind he quite naturally concludes 

23 Epistola 29 to Oldenburg; A. Wolfs translation. 

24 Cf. below, n, 685 and above, p. 359. 

23 Cf, chapter on “Extension and Thought” in the present writer's the Philos- 
ophy of Spinoza, 

Ethics II, Prop, ii, Corol. 

27 Ibid, II, Prop. II. 


that “the human mind is united to the body,” that is to 
say, it is inseparable from it. 

With such a definition of mind, it would seem that Spinoza 
would line himself up with those who believed that celestial 
bodies, like stars and planets, have also a mind, for all things 
in the world, according to him, are finite modes of God’s 
attributes of extension and thought, just as, according to 
Aristotle, all things in the world are composed of matter and 
form. And in fact Spinoza himself definitely says that “all 
things are besouled {omnia . . . animata), although in differ- 
ent degrees {diversis gradibus)/’ But this, in our opinion, 
does not mean that he believed that everything in the world, 
including stars and planets, had a soul like that of man, en- 
dowed with consciousness, any more than it means that he 
believed that a stone had a soul like that of man by which 
it would be conscious of its falling. The latter is explicitly 
denied by him. 3° What he means is exactly what St. Thomas 
says of Aristotle, that while all things have forms {species = 
db-q), the different degrees {diver si gradus) in the perfection 
of nature constitute a diversity of species or forms {speci- 
erum),^^ so that, while the forms of some things are souls, the 
forms of other things are not souls. Similarly here, Spinoza, 
using the term “soul” loosely for the finite mode of the at- 
tribute of thought in each thing, the equivalent of Aristotle’s 
“ form,” says that all things are “ besouled,” but “ in different 
degrees,” some of them having souls in the strict sense of 
the term, being endowed with consciousness, others having 
no souls in this strict sense of the term. 

Since the human mind, according to Spinoza, is inseparable 

Ihid. II j Prop. 13, Corol. 

Ibid, IIj Prop. 13, SchoL {Opera^ ed. Gebhardt, II, I. 28). 
3 ° Epistola 58 {Opera^ IV, p. 266, 11 . 13-15). 

3 ^ ^aestiones Disputatae: JDe Anima, Art. 7, Resp. 



from the body, it cannot survive the death of the body as an 
individual entity. Spinoza could have argued thus against 
the traditional view of immortality just as he argues against 
the traditional views on incorporeality, free will, creation, 
prophecy, and miracles. But the purpose of his philosophy 
was not only metaphysical but also moral, and the plan of 
the Ethics was, first, to reject all the main premises of tra- 
ditional religious philosophy which had been held valid 
since the time of Philo and, then, to show how his own new 
philosophy, without a personal Deity and without miracles 
and revelation and free will, may not only be as good a guide 
in life as the old philosophy but may also offer as good a con- 
solation for the after-life as the old philosophy. It is for this 
reason that he presents his views on immortality not in op- 
position to those who maintain it in its traditional form but 
rather in opposition to those who in his own time and in his 
own city denied it altogether. To begin with, on the basis 
of his own philosophy, he could quite logically maintain that 
on the death of man neither his body nor his soul is abso- 
lutely destroyed, but as finite modes they both become re- 
absorbed into the infinite modes, namely, “motion ” and “the 
absolutely infinite intellect,” of which they are respectively 
parts. Then, like Avicenna and Averroes and their follow- 
ers in the past, he tries to show that the human mind, though 
in its origin it is only a part of the absolutely infinite intellect, 
becomes individualized during the lifetime of man by its 
acquisition of knowledge of the type which he describes as 
the second and third of his three types of knowledge.^ Then 
this individualized human mind, on its reunion with the ab- 
solutely infinite intellect whence it originally came, some- 
how, in some inexplicable manner, retains its acquired indi- 

Ethics V, Prop. 38, Demonst. 


viduality. The human soul is thus immortal, or eternal, as 
he usually calls it, and its immortality is in a certain sense 
personal and individual.^* 

33 Spinoza’s definition of mind as well as his conception of immortality is dis- 
cussed by the present writer more fully in the chapters ‘‘Body and Mind” and 
“Love, Immortality, and Blessedness” in ne Philosophy oj Spinoza, 



I. Miracles and Freedom 

In Philo, as in any other philosopher, the problem of the 
freedom of the will in man is but a special phase of the more 
general problems of the existence of immutable laws in nature 
and the relation of mind to body. Now with regard to laws 
of nature Philo’s view is clear. There are, according to him, 
certain unalterable laws by which the universe is governed, 
but these laws were established in the universe by God at 
the time of its creation. This view is expressed by him in a 
variety of ways in such statements as that there are “ordi- 
nances and laws which God laid down in the universe as 
unalterable’’ * and that “this world is the Megalopolis and it 
has a single polity and a single law.” “ These laws of nature 
are sometimes designated by him in their totality by the 
general term Logos, by which he means an immanent Logos 
in the created physical universe, conceiving of it as part of 
that incorporeal Logos which existed prior to the creation of 
the universe. It is this immanent Logos which is described 
by him as “the bond of all existence,” which “holds and 
knits together all the parts,” ^ and which also “administers 
all things.” 

Equally clear is his view with regard to the relation of 
mind to body. Man is a miniature world ® and, like the great 

* Reprinted with some revisions from the Harvard Theological Review, XXXV 
(194a), 131-1 69. 

^ OpiJ, 19, 61. 3 Pug, lOy 1X2, 

= Jos, 6, 29. 4 Heres 38, 188. 

5 The analogy of man to the world as a microcosm to a macrocosm is attributed 
by Philo to some anonymous philosophers of whom he says that “they declare that 



world which consists of a body and a Logos within It, man 
consists of body and mind, and this mind within the body is, 
according to Philo, like the immanent Logos in the world, a 
part of the incorporeal Logos which existed prior to the crea- 
tion of the world. Thus in one passage, after having referred 
to the preexistent Logos and the Logos in man as two Logoi, 
“one the archetypal Logos above us, the other the copy of it 
which we possess,” ® he describes these two Logoi as “the 
mind within us and the mind above us.” ’’ Like the imma- 
nent Logos in the world, this immanent Logos in man is that 
which constitutes the principle of order and harmony and 
purposive rational action in man. In its relation to the pow- 
ers of the irrational soul the mind is like a king In a state; 
it governs and unifies all these powers, which form its body- 
guard, as it were, and accompany it as an escort.® 
Throughout the philosophy of Philo, however, there is the 
implicit assumption of a fundamental difiference between the 
rule of the immanent Logos in the world and its rule in man. 
In the world there is only a body which the Logos encounters, 
a body whose basis is a chaotic, discordant, and errant mat- 
ter, and no sooner is that Logos placed in the world than it 
subdues that matter, controls its errancy, and establishes its 
governance of law and reason and orderly processes in the 
world. In the human body, however, it is not only an errant 
matter which the Logos encounters but also another soul 
which was created by God when He formed man “ out of the 
matter scattered here and there, which Moses calls clay”® 

man is a small world and alternatively the world a great man” {Heres 31, 155). 
It is also implied in .his reference to the world as the ** greatest and most perfect 
man” {Migr, 39, 110) and to man as a ‘‘small heaven” {Opf. 27, 82). Cf. Drum- 
mond, I, 288-289. On this analogy, see Plato, ^imaeus 30 d; 44 d; Aristotle, 
Phys, VIII, 2, 252b, 26-27. 

^ Heres 48, 230 and cf. 233. * Migr* 31, 170. 

7 Hid., 236. 9 Leg, All, 1 , 12, 31; cf. above, p. 387, n. 17. 

426 PHILO 

and that soul, too, which he calls earthlike (YecbSTjs),” is made 
of matter. Being made of matter, it is errant, disorderly, and 
irrational; but more than mere body, it is a force; it is active 
in its errancy and not merely passive; it is not easily over- 
come by the immanent reason; it offers resistance to it, with 
the result that in man throughout his lifetime there is a 
struggle between the rational and irrational souls. 

This struggle of the rational soul with the body under the 
dominance of the irrational soul is described by Philo with 
striking clearness in many characteristic passages. “In so 
far as the soul of the wise man,” he says, “descending from 
the ether above, comes down upon and enters a mortal and 
is sown in the field of the body, it is truly sojourning in a land 
which is not its own.” ” The body under the dominance of 
the irrational soul not only fails to cooperate with the 
rational soul but is an “actual hindrance” to it “ and is “a 
plotter” against it.*’ The passions which arise in the body, 
though when mastered by reason they may become our 
helpers, are in reality “our actual foes,” so that we are 
constantly afflicted from within by “pleasures and desires 
and sorrows and fears.” The outcome of that conflict is 
uncertain. Sometimes it is the victory of reason, in which 
case the resulting action is described by such terms, borrowed 
from both philosophy and Scripture, as goodness, virtue, 
wisdom, and righteousness and the agent is described as 
good, wise, and righteous.*^ Sometimes, however, the out- 
come of the conflict is a victory for the passions, in which 
case the resulting action is described as wickedness or im- 

” Ibid., 3a. « Leg. All. I, 3a, 103. 

« ^a. in Gen. Ill, 10; cf. Heres 54, 267. « Ibid. Ill, aa, 69. 

Ibid. II, 4, lo. 
i^a. in Gen. Ill, lo. 

tA iyaSbv, ^ bperfi, rb ao 4 >la, Bucaunrini. See Leisegang, Indices s.v. 
byoBbs, o-oi^As, SUaios. See ibid., s.v. 



piety or sin and the agent is described as foolish or wicked 
or sinful.^^ 

So far Philo’s position with regard to the action of the im- 
manent Logos in the world and in man is like that of Plato as 
portrayed in the ’Timaeus. For though Philo’s immanent 
Logos, which God implanted in the world at the time of its 
creation to serve as its governing law, is not made of the 
mixed stuff of the Platonic universal soul but it rather shares 
the pure immateriality of the ideas, still in function the 
universal soul and the immanent Logos are alike. The uni- 
versal soul of Plato, exactly like the immanent Logos of Philo, 
was made by God “earlier and elder than the body.”" It 
was set by God “in the midst ” of the world and was spread 
“through all its body.” Its purpose was to act as the 
“mistress and governor” of the world “ and that purpose 
was actually attained, for when the world was created out of 
matter, called also necessity, and within that world the uni- 
versal soul or mind was placed, “mind overruled necessity” 
and “this universe was fashioned in the beginning by the 
victory of reasonable persuasion over necessity and the 
soul of the universe, which contained mind and was rational, 
“began a divine beginning of unceasing and intelligent life 
lasting throughout all time.” Similarly Philo’s description 
of the two souls in man, the rational and the irrational, and 
the conflict between them, though containing elements from 
other dialogues of Plato as well as from other non-Platonic 
sources, is essentially based upon Plato’s description in the 
Timaeus of the rational and irrational souls,*® of the conflict 
between them and of the possible victory of the rational 

t 6 KaKhvj 37 Kada^ d<r^/3€ta, &fx&,pT7jiJ,a. See s.v. 

<^aOXos, KaKds, iTralrtos. See S.v, Ihid. 48 A. 

timaeus 34 c. Uid. 36 e. 

« Ihid, 34 B. Cf. above, p. 339. Ibid. 42 e £; 69 o. 

*=* Ibid, 34 c. Ibid. 42 E-44 D. 



soul over the irrational soul by the strength which it may gain 
through knowledge acquired by means of training.^^ 

But as we go on to scrutinize further their respective state- 
ments with regard to the causality of God and His power 
over the laws which He has implanted in nature, we discover 
a vast difference between their views, and out of this differ- 
ence, we shall try to show, there arises also a difference be- 
tween their views as to the freedom of man. Both of them, 
as we have seen, believe that there are unalterable laws of 
nature, and both of them also believe that these laws of 
nature were implanted by God in the universe as an act of 
good will. But there is a difference between them as to the 
power of God over these laws of nature. To Plato, once the 
laws of nature were implanted by God in the world, by His 
implanting in it the universal soul, these laws can never be 
upset. Indeed God, who has created the universe and has 
implanted the laws of nature within it, should logically be 
able also to dissolve them; still, to dissolve that which He has 
perfectly constructed, argues Plato, would indicate “ the will 
of an evil one,” and since the Demiurge is not an evil one, 
he assures the created Gods, i.e., the celestial bodies and the 
deities of popular religion, that “in my will {^oh'Kriats) ye 
possess a bond greater and more sovereign than the bonds 
wherewith, at your birth, ye were bound together.” What 
he really means to say is that on the creation of the world 
and the implantation of the laws of nature within it God 
abdicated His power to upset these laws and gave His as- 
surance, as it were, that He would let the world run accord- 
ing to its established laws without any interference on His 
part. It is like the covenant which the God of the Hebrew 
Bible established between himself and “every living crea- 
ture of all flesh ” that is upon the earth, at the cessation of 
*7 Ibid* 86 b -87 b. =*» 



the deluge, an everlasting covenant, by which God gave 
assurance that “while the earth remaineth, seedtime and 
harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day 
and night shall not cease and that neither will He again 
smite any more everything living, as He has done.” But 
while the God of the Hebrew Scripture, despite the covenant, 
has still reserved for himself, mentally, the right to upset the 
order of nature temporarily for the sake of performing mir- 
acles whenever there should be a need for them, the Demiurge 
of Plato had made no such mental reservation. There is no 
room for miracles in the philosophy of Plato. His God, 
though He has started as a free agent and created the world 
by will, by His own voluntary abdication of His power to 
change the laws which He himself has implanted in the 
world, has deprived himself of freedom and thereafter acted 
by the necessity of His own nature no less than the God of 
Aristotle who never created a world by his will. 

In the philosophy of Philo, however, there is room for 
miracles, for while his God is philosophically the Demiurge 
of Plato, He has still retained the essential characteristics of 
the miracle-working Jehovah of the Hebrew Scripture. Be- 
lieving as he did in the historicity of the miracles recorded 
in Scripture, even though occasionally he tried to read into 
them some allegorical meaning or to explain them as normal 
events, he modified, or perhaps he thought that he only in- 
terpreted, Plato’s conception of the unalterability of the laws 
of nature in accordance with his belief in the miraculous in- 
tervention of God in the established order of the universe. 
While agreeing with Plato that God has implanted universal 
laws in nature and that these laws can be relied upon, for all 
practical purposes, to operate with uniformity and with a 

“9 Gen. 8; 21 - 22 ; g: 16-17. Cf. also Jer. 31: 34-35; 33: 20-ai. 

3 ° ^imaeus 29 d - e ; 41 a - b . 



certain scheduled regularity, still God can upset these laws 
of nature, and in fact He did upset them on many occasions in 
the past as an act of goodness to men in time of their need. 
God to Philo is thus not altogether indifferent to the vicissi- 
tudes of human beings, or at least to those of such human 
beings as are especially favored by Him, in their unequal 
struggle against the inexorable forces of nature, and He does 
on certain occasions interfere on their behalf and help them 
to come victorious out of that struggle. 

Corresponding to this difference between them with re- 
spect to God’s power over nature there is a difference between 
them also with respect to the power of the human mind over 
the body. In Plato, the victory of reason over the passions, 
or its defeat by them, depends entirely upon the relative 
strength or weakness of these two contestants. Given a mind 
which for some reason or other has failed to reeducate itself 
in the knowledge of true being which it had forgotten on its 
entrance into the body, and given at the same time a body 
of which for some reason or other the passions are strong and 
powerful, the victory of body over mind is definitely assured 
and nothing in the world could change it, unless it were some 
external causes which happened to weaken the power of the 
passions or to strengthen the power of the mind. If, there- 
fore, we had a gauge by which we could measure the relative 
strength or weakness of mind and body, we could at any 
given moment predict the outcome of the conflict between 
them. Hence it is the possession of knowledge or the lack 
of it'that automatically will lead to the victory of the rational 
or the irrational soul. There is no such third factor as a will, 
conceived as something autonomous and as something which 
is free and independent of both the rational and irrational 
faculties of the soul and which by some arbitrary action tips 
the scale on the side of the one or the other. Whenever the 



rational and irrational souls meet in conflict, the victory of 
the one or the other will be decided on the basis of their re- 
spective strengths and weaknesses. For man there is no 
choice in the matter. 

In Philo, however, the victory of the rational or the irra- 
tional soul is not decided mechanically by the strength of 
one in relation to the strength of the other. There is to him 
a will in man which by some unaccountable manner may 
decide in favor of the one or the other, even when by all the 
laws of causality the outcome should have been otherwise. 
For just as he considered God as working miracles in nature 
to help those whom He favored in their struggle against the 
forces of nature, so did he also consider God as being not 
altogether indifferent to the struggle in man of mind against 
the forces of the body. God, according to Philo, would not 
let man be a passive object in the struggle of mind and body. 
He would not allow the struggle between mind and body to 
be determined, like the struggle between two bodies, by the 
ordinary laws of nature. Mind was therefore endowed by God 
with part of that power which He himself possesses of up- 
setting the laws of nature. As a divine grace man was given 
that freedom of action by which God himself in a miraculous 
way comes to the help of His chosen ones in their struggle 
against the odds of nature. The determination of the mind 
to do or not to do is thus not the result of natural causes 
which are “of God” or “according to God” and by which 
the unalterable laws of nature established by God in the 
world are operated. Such a determination by the mind is a 
break in the nexus of these natural laws and in the estab- 
lished laws of the universe even as miracles are. This power 
with which the human mind was endowed to choose or not to 
choose refers not only to the choice of good, but also to the 
choice of evil, even though the mind is by its very nature 



rational, for, as says Philo, there are in our mind “ voluntary 
inclinations {eKovffbvs rpoiras) to what is wrong.” The es- 
sential rationality of the mind does not preclude the possi- 
bility of its acting, by the mere power of its free will, against 
the dictates of reason. 

II. The Choice of Good and Evil 

The difference between Plato and Philo on the question of 
human freedom is clearly brought out in their respective 
treatments of, the question of human responsibility for the 
choice of evil and of the justifiability of punishment meted 
out to wrongdoers by both God and the state. 

Plato does not raise this question directly, but from the 
answers which he provides against such a question we may 
judge that he was conscious of it. The question as it must 
have appeared to him was of a double nature. In the first 
place, he wanted to justify the punishment which according 
to his eschatology is meted out to the souls of those who live 
in unrighteousness by their being reincarnated successively 
in the bodies of various creatures until they turn from the 
evil of their ways.* In the second place, he wanted to justify 
the penalty meted out by the state to wrongdoers for vari- 
ous offenses.® 

In answer to the first question, he simply states that divine 
justice is vindicated by the fact that at the very beginning, 
when the individual souls were about to be put for the first 
time in human bodies, they were all given an equal start and 
were all equally warned of the consequences of their future 
behavior, for, as they were distributed among the stars prior 

Deter. 32, 12a. 

^ Tima^us 4a b-d. 

* Laws IX, 860 b; cf. IV, 718 b. 



to their being put in human bodies, “He shewed to them the 
nature of the universe and declared unto them the laws of 
destiny, — namely, how that the first incarnation should be 
ordained to be the same for all, in order that none might 
suffer disadvantage at His hands; and how it was needful that 
they, when sown each into his own proper organ of time (i.e., 
star), should be born as the most God-fearing of living 
creatures (i.e., mankind).” ^ This equality of start and this 
equality of warning, according to Plato, was given by God 
to men “to the end that He might be blameless of the future 
wickedness of any one of them.” ■' By this Plato exculpates 
God from any moral responsibility for the evil of human 
conduct. “The blame is his who chooses: God is blame- 
less.” ® Then, too, God to him is not the cause of evil,*' nor 
is the soul as such the cause thereof. Evil arises out of the 
fact that the soul placed in the body happens to be overridden 
by the body, when man by his irrational desires allows it to 
become thus overridden.’ It is our duty, therefore, says 
Plato, “to try to escape from earth to the dwelling place of 
the Gods as quickly as we can; and to escape is to become 
like God, so far as this is possible; and to become like God 
is to become righteous and holy and wise.” ® This is as far 
as Plato goes in exculpating God of the evil man does. But 
the fundamental question whether man’s own irrational 
desires by which his rational soul is overridden are them- 
selves predetermined by causes outside of man’s will, and 
whether also man by a wiU absolutely free and undeter- 
mined could at any moment arbitrarily change the course of 
his action — that is not dealt with by Plato. God’s respon- 
sibility, according to him, ends with the creation of the 

3 Timaeus 41 e. 

^ Ibid, 42 D. 

5 Republic X, 617 E 

® Ibid, II, 379 c. 

7 Timaeus 42 e; cf. Laws X, 900 e, 904 a* 
« Theaetetus 176 a. 



world, which was the best possible world which could be 
created and within which the souls of all men had an equal 
start. Once the world was created and the souls for all 
future men planted in it, God retired, as it were, from the 
world, letting it run according to the laws which He had es- 
tablished in it. There is no individual providence in the 
philosophy of Plato. 

In answer to the second question, Plato seems to admit that 
inasmuch as man’s actions are to a large extent predeter- 
mined and are not entirely his free choice, the only justifica- 
tion for the punishment of criminals by the state is that such 
punishments are either curative or deterrent, for the wrong- 
doer is to pay the penalty for his misdeed, says Plato, only 
“in order that for the future both he himself and those who 
behold his punishment may either utterly loathe his sin or 
at least renounce to a great extent such lamentable con- 
duct.” 5’ Even the punishment of death inflicted upon in- 
curable criminals is justified by him on the ground that “not 
only is it better for the sinners themselves to live no longer, 
but also they will prove of a double benefit to others by quit- 
ting life — since they will both serve as a warning to the 
rest not to act unjustly, and also rid the state of wicked 
men.” Indeed Plato speaks of a distinction between vol- 
untary (iKovcria) wrongdoings and involuntary (aKovaia) 
wrongdoings ” as well as of a distinction between a voluntary 
lie and an involuntary lie.“ But when we examine the sense 
in which Plato uses the term “voluntary,” we shall find that 
there is no indication that he meant thereby the existence of 
a will which is free and independent of reason and concupis- 

’ Laws XI, 934 a. 

Wd, 1X5 86a e; cf, XII, 958 A. Cf. R. D. Archer-Hind, "Lhe Timaeus of PlatOy 
p. 325, ad 86 E, 

” Laws IXj 861 B. 

** Ibid, V, 730 c; Republic VI, 533 £• 


cence. The term “ voluntary,” we shall find, is used by him 
here in two senses: (i) in the sense of not being compelled 
by some external agent,’'’ and ( 2 ) in the sense of knowing 
what one does, for in the case of a lie he explicitly says that 
an involuntary lie is one that is told through ignorance 
(&lj.a6ia).^* Accordingly voluntary lying and voluntary- 
wrongdoing mean only lying and doing wrong without ex- 
ternal compulsion and with full knowledge of the act. It is 
in this sense of “knowingly” that Plato uses the term “vol- 
untarily” in his statement that “no one is voluntarily (iK^v) 
wicked.” By knowledge, according to him, the mind is 
strengthened in its struggle with the passions of the body 
and automatically overcomes them. 

In Philo this question of human responsibility and of the 
justification of punishment is touched upon in many places, 
though it is never treated in a complete and systematic 
manner. But in all the passages wherein the problem is 
treated, though at first sight the sentiments expressed in 
them seem to be so much like those of Plato, we discern cer- 
tain expressions which, taken in connection with his views 
we have found elsewhere, seem to emphasize his belief in 
the absolute freedom of the human mind. Thus in one pas- 
sage wherein he discusses the superiority of man to brute 
animals he says that man is “ blamed for what he does wrong 
with intent and praised when he acts rightly of his own will ” 
on account of his possession of ^*a volitional and self- 
determining mind, whose activities for the most part rest on 

^3 Statesman 293 a. 

Republic VII, 535 e. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew skegagah^ which, 
according to rabbinic interpretation, means the commission of a sin through igno- 
rance, is translated in the Septuagint by bKoiKnov (Lev. 4; 2; Num. 35: ii, et 

Timaeus 86 e. Cf. discussion in commentaries of R. D. Archer-Hind, A, E, 
Taylor, and F. M. Comford, ad loc. 



deliberate choice {irpoaiptriKah)." This by itself may per- 
haps not mean more than Aristotle’s statement that men are 
praised or blamed only for voluntary actions and that they 
are praised or blamed for virtues or vices because virtues 
and vices are actions which involve deliberate choice {irpoai- 
ptTiKrt).'^^ By itself, then, Philo’s statement may perhaps 
mean only, as does Aristotle’s statement, that a voluntary 
action is an action without external compulsion and without 
ignorance.*® But when Philo says that God gave to the 
human mind a portion “of that free will which is His most 
peculiar possession and most worthy of His majesty” ** and 
that by this gift of free will the human mind “in this respect 
has been made to resemble Him,” ** it is quite evident that 
by man’s free will Philo means an absolutely undetermined 
freedom like that enjoyed by God, who by his power to work 
miracles can upset the laws of nature and the laws of causality 
which He himself has established. It is because of this unde- 
termined freedom possessed by man that Philo frees God of 
blame for the sins committed by man and justifies the pun- 
ishment meted out to man for his sin, for the human soul thus 
“ being liberated, as far as might be, from the hard and ruth- 
less mistress, necessity, may justly be charged with guilt, in 
that it does not honor its Liberator and therefore it will 
rightly pay the inexorable penalty which is meted to un- 
grateful freedmen.” ** 

That a voluntary act to Philo does not mean, as it does to 
Plato and Aristotle, an action done with knowledge is made 
clear by him in his homily on the scriptural verses; “Behold 
I have set before thy face life and death, good and evil; 

ImmuU 10, 47. Ibid. Ill, i, no9b, 35 fF. 

Eth. Nic. Ill, 1, 1109b, 31, « Immut. lo, 47. 

Ibid. II, 5, 1105b, 31-1 io6a, a. « 

^ 5 * Ibid. II, 6, iio6b, 36; cf. II, 5, iio6a, 3-4. lUd.^ 48. 



choose life,” which verse is drawn upon also subsequently 
by the Church Fathers for proof of their view as to the free- 
dom of the will.“s “By this,” he says, “He puts before us 
both doctrines: first, that men have been made with a knowl- 
edge of good and of its opposite, evil; second, that it is their 
duty to choose the better rather than the worse, because 
they have, as it were, within them an incormptible judge in 
the reasoning faculty, which will accept all that right reason 
suggests and reject the promptings of its opposite.” It will 
be noticed that the knowledge of good and evil does not in 
itself constitute a voluntary act; knowledge is merely a con- 
dition under which one exercises the power of the freedom 
of choice. “He had made him free and unfettered, to employ 
his powers of action with voluntary and deliberate choice 
for this purpose, that, knowing good and ill . . . , he might 
practice to choose the better and avoid the opposite.” In 
fact, according to Philo, all men have a knowledge of the 
good, but some, notwithstanding that knowledge, choose by 
their own free will to follow the base, and it is because they 
had that knowledge of the good that they are convicted for 
the choice they have made. “Who indeed is so lacking in 
reason or soul that he never either with or without his will 
receives a conception of the best? Nay, even over the repro- 
bate hovers often of a sudden the vision of the excellent, but 
to grasp it and to keep it among them they are unable. . . . 
Nay, never would it have come to them save to convict those 
who choose the base instead of the noble.” ** This statement, 
too, on the face of it, may be merely a reflection of Plato’s 
view that all men by their very nature have the capacity to 

Deut. 30: ij and 19. 

Justin Martyr, Apologia I, 44 ; Origen, De PrinctpHs III, i, § 6. 

Immut. 10, 50. 

=*7 Ibid.i 49 . 

Gig- Sy 20 - 21 . 



regain the vision of the ideas for fleeting moments during 
their lifetime, though it is only philosophers -who by their 
special training and preparation can be in continuous com- 
munication with them.®’ But Philo, as will have been noticed, 
in restating this view, says that those reprobates, who have 
a sudden vision of the excellent and get some knowledge of 
it, out of their own free will choose the base instead of the 
noble and that it is for this reason that they are held responsi- 
ble for their deeds and are convicted. 

The choice of evil is thus in man’s own hand. But what 
about evil which one commits involuntarily? The answer 
to this question may be gathered from several passages in 
Philo’s writings. 

Sin, says Philo, may be committed either voluntarily (imv- 
ffiojy) or involuntarily (iKovaU^).^" Now with regard to volun- 
tary sin, he explicitly says that the sinner in question cannot 
say that the sin he has committed was “according to God’s 
will ((cari deSv)” Voluntary sins, according to him, have 
their sole source in the sinner himself, or, to use his own 
words, “they are acts of our own will {yv&ji-qs)." With 
regard to involuntary sin, however, he distinguishes within 
it two kinds. One kind of involuntary sin, just like voluntary 
sin in general, cannot be said to have come about by the will 
of God. It can be explained only as being due to the fact 
that man is part of nature and subject to the laws by which 
it is governed. According to these laws of nature, it may 
sometimes happen that, without any intention on the part 
of man, ignorance and carelessness and weakness will in- 
evitably result in mishaps as well as in sins. Such involun- 
tary sin can be said to proceed from God only indirectly, that 
is to say, only in so far as it is God who implanted in the 

Phaedrus 249 b-d; cf. Grote, Plato^ II, 219. 31 pug, I4, 76. 

3 ® Fug. 14, 76; Post. 3, Agr. 40, 176, 33 Jhid. 13, 65. 



universe these laws of nature. Another kind of involuntary 
sin is described by Philo as coming about directly by the will 
of God, and this for a certain definite purpose, namely, for 
the purpose of administering justice in the universe. As a 
typical example of this kind of involuntary sin he takes the 
case of the unintentional slayer mentioned in Scripture. 
This particular kind of involuntary sinner, according to his 
interpretation, is one whose past life is not altogether stain- 
less but who somewhere in his past must have committed 
certain sins, though sins which are few in number and which 
can be easily remedied. A man with such a past is chosen 
by God as an instrument of His judgment in inflicting pun- 
ishment upon some more grievously guilty person,^'* who 
somehow has escaped from the justice of men,^® and whom 
God, after His manner of not inflicting evil directly, wishes 
to punish through the instrumentality of some intermediary 
agent.*® In being chosen, on his past record, by God as an 
instrument of carrying out His divine judgment, man thus 
happens to commit what is known as involuntary sin, for 
which, incidentally, he receives a light punishment and thus 
expiates the few and remediable sins of his past.*^ The act 

33 spec. Ill, 21, 122. 


3 s Ibid,y 121. 

Fug, i 3 j 66. 

37 This analysis of Philo's view as to the cause of involuntary sin is based upon 
passages in Spec. Ill, ai, 1 20-1 23, and Fug, 13, 65-14, 76. In both these places Philo 
discusses Exod. 21 ; 13, which in the Septuagint reads; “ If he did notdo itvoluntarily, 
but God delivered into his hands, I will appoint thee a place whither he who hath 
killed shall flee.” Evidently following what in his time must have already been a 
Jewish tradition, which we shall quote at the end of this note, Philo takes this verse 
to refer to a case where A, who was a guilty person deserving of punishment {Spec, 
III, 21, 120-121), was killed unintentionally by B, who in the past had committed a 
few remediable sins {ibid., 122). His comment on this verse is as follows: ’‘The 
writer feels that intentional acts are acts of our own will, and that unintentional acts 
are acts of God’s will {6eov ) : I mean not sins, but, on the contrary, all acts that are 
a punishment for sin” {Fug. 13, 65). What he means to say is this; Involuntary 



committed by the involuntary sinner is therefore an act of 
God’s will, its purpose being to carry out His divine judg- 
ment in punishing sinners. The reasoning may perhaps 
sound somewhat casuistical, but casuistry is bound to ap- 

sins which serve no purpose of punishment are not acts of God’s will but rather those 
of natural causes; involuntary sins which serve the purpose of punishment are acts 
of God’s will, because, as he says subsequently, God has chosen B as the minister of 
His judgment and the instrument of His vengeance upon A, in view of the fact that 
God does not inflict punishment directly {Fug. 13, 66; Spec. Ill, 21, 121-122). 
When later in Fug. 14, 76, Philo says that “it is lawful, therefore, for one who feels 
that he has been involuntarily changed, to say that this change has come upon him 
according to God’s will (Kard fiedv), a statement which the voluntary sinner may not 
make,” the reference is only to that kind of involuntary sinner whose involuntary 
sin serves the purpose of punishment. Though this discussion of Philo deals 
primarily with the particular case of murder, his introductory statement in Fug. 13, 
65, “The writer feels that intentional acts are acts of our own will, and that unin- 
tentional acts are God’s acts,” as well as his succeeding discussion, quite clearly 
shows that he tries to draw from it a generalization with regard to all human actions. 

The Jewish traditional interpretation of Lev. 21: 13, referred to above (quoted 
by Ritter, Philo und die Halacha-. Fine vergleichende Siudie, p. 30, n. 3, and referred 
to by Heinemann, Bildung, pp. 400 f.), is reported in the name of Simeon b. Lakish, 
a Palestinian Amora of the third century. It reads as follows: “What case does 
the verse deal with? It deals with the case of two persons who killed human beings, 
one of them unintentionally and the other intentionally, but neither of them com- 
mitted his act in the presence of witnesses who could come and testify against him. 
The Holy One, blessed be He, therefore, causes them to meet at the same inn. The 
one who has killed intentionally seats himself under a ladder and the other who has 
killed unintentionally begins to climb that ladder and falls down upon the one who 
sits underneath it and kills him. The result is that he who has killed intentionally 
suffers punishment by death and he who has killed unintentionally suffers punish- 
ment by exile” {Makkot lob). 

Though the homily quoted is Amoraic, it is based on an older Tannaitic homily 
in Mekilta, Nezikin 4, Exod. 21 : 13, (W,p. 86a; F,p. 80a; HR,p. 262; L, III, 35). The 
sentiment expressed in it is also found in another Tannaitic homily on Deut. 22: 8: 
“When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a parapet for thy roof, that 
thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.” Upon the last 
statement, which literally reads “if any one Jailing fall from thence,” the school of 
Ishmael comment as follows: “that man was destined to fall since the six days of 
creation, seeing that he has not yet fallen and yet Scripture describes him as 'falling'* \ 
this in truth is in accordance with the principle that reward is brought about through 
the agency of a worthy person and punishment is brought about through the agency 
of a guilty person” {Sifre on Deut. 22: 8, § 229, F, p. ii6a; HF, p. 262); Shabhat 
32a). The same interpretation of the verse is also implied in pseudo-Jonathan 
Targum ad loc. 



pear in any kind of theodicy no less than in any kind of 

His view on the doing of evil is thus quite clear. He ex- 
plicitly distinguishes between voluntary and involuntary 
evil. Voluntary evil is done by man alone; God is neither 
directly nor indirectly the cause of it. Involuntary evil may 
be said in certain instances to have been directly caused by 

Not so clear is his view on the doing of good. He does 
not speak of an involuntary good deed or virtue or righteous- 
ness, and this for the very good reason that, like Aristotle,^® 
he defines virtue, or rather righteousness (kKaLoaipri), as an 
act performed by voluntary choice {iKovaicfi and 

consequently no virtue can be described as involuntary. By 
this definition of righteousness he makes it quite evident that 
the choice of good is a voluntary act. The same view is ex- 
pressed by him also elsewhere: “And mark, the words in 
which thy Father urges thee to go put no compulsion 
{kvit-yKriv oidefxlav) on thee, in order that thou mayest follow 
the better course at thine own volition {iBe\ovpj6s) and by 
thine own self-determination {avroKiKevaTos).” Still, these 
statements are not as explicit as his statements about the 
choice of evil. He does not state negatively, as he does about 
both voluntary and involuntary evil, that in the choice of 
good God is not a cause either directly or indirectly in any 
sense whatsoever. His only statement about it is that the 
doing of good is by our “voluntary choice,” without “com- 
pulsion,” and by our own “volition” and “self-determina- 
tion.” The question may therefore be raised whether by this 
omission of any negative statement Philo meant to indicate 

3 * Etk. Nk. II, 6, 1 lo6b, 36, where virtue is defined IJts rpoaipeTuc^, and III, 2, 
iliib, 7, where Tpoa(pe<Tts is said to be hohawv, 

39 SomtJ, II, 26, 174. 

Defer, 4, 1 1. 



that in the choice of good, though it is always voluntary, God 
has a part, and, if so, what that part is. 

An answer to this question is to be found in a fragment from 
the lost fourth book of his Legum Allegoria, which contains 
another homily on the verses: '‘Behold I have set before thy 
face life and death, good and evil; choose life, that thou may- 
est live.’' The homily reads as follows: 

It is a happy thing for the soul to be able to choose the better of the 
two choices put forward by the Creator, but it is happier for it not to 
choose, but for the Creator to bring it over to himself and improve it. 
For, strictly speaking, the human mind does not choose the good through 
itself, but in accordance with the thoughtfulness of God, since He be- 
stows the fairest things upon the worthy. For two main principles are 
with the Lawgiver, namely, that on the one hand God does not govern 
all things as a man and that on the other hand He trains and educates 
us as a man.42 Accordingly, when he affirms the second principle, namely, 
that God acts as man, he represents our mind as capable of knowing some- 
thing, and willing, and choosing, and avoiding. But when he affirms the 
first and better principle, namely, that God acts not as man, he ascribes 
the powers and causes of all things to God, leaving no work for a created 
being but declaring it to be inactive and passive. Fie explains this when 
he says in other words that “God has known those who are His and those 
who are (His) holy [and] He has brought [them] near [to himself].'' (Num. 
16: 5.) But if selections and rejections are in strictness made by the one 
cause, why do you advise me, legislator, to choose life or death, as though 
we were autocrats of our choice? But he would answer: Of such things hear 
thou a rather elementary explanation, namely, such things are said to 
those who have not yet been initiated in the great mysteries about the 
sovereignty and authority of the Uncreated and the exceeding nothing- 
ness of the created.^ 

The view expressed in this fragment has been character- 
ized by Drummond as one which "in effect reduces the belief 

Deut. 30: 15 and 19. 

The reference here is to the scriptural statements “God is not as a man’* 
(Num. 23: 19) and “as a man would chasten his son, so the Lord thy God will 
chasten thee” (Deut. 8: 5) discussed by Philo in Immut, ii, 53 ff. and elsewhere. 

^3 Harris, Fragments^ p. 8 . Parts of the translation of this fragment are from 
Drummond’s Philo Judaeus, 1 , 347, n, Cf. also Latin version of parts of this passage 
in Franciscus Turrianus, Adversus Magdeburgenses Centuriatores pro Canonihus 
Apostolorum, 6? Epistolis Decretalibus Pontijicum ApostoUcorum, IV, Florence, 1 572, 
p. 361. 



in free-will to a useful delusion of the less educated,” and 
it would seem to be contradictory to Philo’s statements else- 
where as to the existence of free will in man. We shall at- 
tempt, however, to show that this fragment does not teach 
a denial of free will, but rather that it stresses a certain fun- 
damental detail supplementary to Philo’s conception of 

If we examine the fragment carefully we shall note in it two 
curious facts. 

In the first place, the fragment deals only with man’s choice 
of the good but makes no mention at all of man’s choice of 
evil. It only says that “ the human mind does not choose the 
good through itself”; it does not say that it does not choose 
the evil through itself. Indeed it speaks of the mind as being 
unable through itself to avoid as well as to choose, to reject 
as well as to select, but the terms “avoid {(j>vyelvy’ and “re- 
jections (dTreKXoYat),” judging from his use elsewhere of the 
expression “he might practice to choose the better and avoid 
(<t>vyfj) the opposite,” mean here to avoid and reject evil, 
which is a form of choosing good. Now this omission of any 
reference to the cause of the choice of evil cannot be acci- 
dental and merely due to the fact that in the verse quoted 
(Deut. 30: 19) there is only the statement “choose life,” for 
previous to that verse there is also mention of the possibility 
of the choice of evil and death (Deut. 30: 17-18). The omis- 
sion of any reference to the choice of evil in this fragment 
can be accounted for only by the fact that the point which 
Philo was going to make in this homily was that only the 
choice of good was caused by God, but not choice of evil. 
No evil, as he repeats in a variety of ways, can come directly 
from God, and this includes the evil-doing of man as well as 
evil done to man.'** 

Drummond, ioc, cit. 

Immut. 10, 49. 

Cf. above, n. 37. 



In the second place, with regard to the choice of good, we 
may say at the very outset that such sweeping statements 
in this passage about the “exceeding nothingness of the 
created” and the “sovereignty and authority of the un- 
created” and about the fact that “the powers and causes of 
all things are attached to God ” and about the unreality of 
the presentation of the human mind as being “capable of 
knowing something, and willing, and choosing, and avoid- 
ing ” do not in themselves indicate that Philo denied of man 
the freedom to choose good. Even with his belief in absolute 
human freedom he could make these statements, in view of 
the fact that that freedom, as he has said in his extant 
works, is a gift bestowed upon man by God, a portion of his 
own power of freedom, whereby he is made to resemble 
God.'^’' These general statements by themselves do not 
therefore conclusively prove anything with regard to the 
exact belief of Philo as to the question of man’s power to 
choose good. What he exactly meant to say on this question 
in this fragment of his lost work must be determined by a 
careful examination of some of the other statements con- 
tained in this fragment as well as of some of the implications 
of what he leaves unsaid in it. 

Now it will have been noticed that in contradistinction to 
his statement in his extant works with regard to the choice 
of evil, that it is of our own will,'** he says here about the 
choice of good that ^selections and rejections are in strict- 
ness made by the one Cause,” that is to say, directly by God. 
Furthermore, God’s direct causation of man’s choice of 
good, it will also be noticed, is described as “the thoughtful- 
ness of God, while He bestows the fairest things upon the 
worthy.” This quite obviously implies that man must first 
do something to render himself worthy of the bestowal upon 

« Cf. above, nn. ai, aa. Cf. above, n. 3a. 


him by God of the power to choose good. Now that doing 
of something by which man renders himself worthy in the 
eyes of God to receive the still greater power of choosing 
good must inevitably refer to some act of free will. This, 
however, could certainly not refer to some act of free will 
exercised in the choice of evil, as that would hardly render 
man worthy of the gracious gift of the choice of good. It 
must therefore inevitably refer to some act of free will in the 
avoidance of evil or in the choice of good. Thus this frag- 
ment, in trying to attribute man’s choice of good to God, 
assumes that man himself already possesses some part of 
freedom to make such a choice. Furthermore, in the very 
opening statement of this fragment Philo says that “it is a 
happy thing for the soul to be able to choose (l<rxi»eu' Xa^elv), 
but it is happier for it not to choose (juij ahr-qv ^KiaBai), but 
for the Creator to bring it over to himself and improve it.” 
Note the difference in wording between “to be able to 
choose” and “not to choose.” If the wording of these two 
statements was chosen with care, and we have no reason to 
doubt that it was so chosen, then the evident meaning of this 
statement is not to deny the soul’s ability to choose the better 
but rather to assert that, while the soul is able of itself to 
choose the better, it actually does not make that choice by 
itself but God brings it to himself and improves it. 

The cumulative impression of all these statements then is 
that, while a man is able to choose the better, he will not have 
to rely upon his. own power, that is to say, that power of free 
will with which God has endowed all men, for, if he proves 
himself worthy, God, through His thoughtfulness, will aid 
him in making that choice by bringing him to himself. The 
direct intervention of God in man’s choice of good dealt with 
in this fragment must therefore be assumed to refer only to 
some help lent by God to man in the choice of good, when 



man proves himself worthy of such a help by trying by his 
own power of free will with which God has endowed all men 
to avoid evil and to choose good. When therefore in this 
fragment God is spoken of as the cause of man’s choice of the 
good, this statement is to be understood in two senses: (i) as 
the ultimate cause of the free will with which all men are 
endowed and (2) as the auxiliary cause of certain particular 
acts of the choice of good where man has proved himself 
worthy by exercising his free will in the avoidance of evil and 
in the pursuit of good. 

This conception of divine aid or grace in the choice of good 
to those who have already by their general power of free will 
taken the initial steps towards the attainment of the good is 
expressed by Philo in several passages in his extant writings. 
In one of these passages, comparing the righteous mind in the 
soul of the individual to the righteous man in the race, he de- 
clares that, when a man has not completely succumbed to 
temptation and his rational soul or mind has not been com- 
pletely effaced by sin and wickedness induced by the passions 
of his irrational soul, he will be helped by God to save him- 
self by the choice of good. ^‘Let us pray then,” he says, 
“that, like a central pillar in a house, there may constantly 
remain for the healing of our maladies the righteous mind in 
the soul and in the human race the righteous man; for while 
he is sound and well, there is no cause to despair of the pros- 
pect of complete salvation, for our Saviour God holds out, 
we may be sure, the most all-healing remedy. His gracious 
power, and commits it to His suppliant and worshipper to 
use for the deliverance of those who are sickly, that He may 
apply it as an embrocation to those soul-wounds which were 
left gaping by the sword-edge of follies and injustices and 
all the rest of the horde of vices.” The implication of this 
Migr. 22, 124. 



passage is quite clear: if man by his own free choice has kept 
himself from being completely sunk in evil and sin, even 
though he has not been able to resist temptation altogether, 
God by His power of graciousness will come to his assistance 
and will help him to choose the way to salvation. 

The same view is also implied in another passage.®" In that 
passage Philo speaks of the ordinary run of men who are con- 
stantly tossed about between reason and passion. He de- 
scribes them as those who “ set out to wage war on the pas- 
sions on an insignificant, not on a grand, scale, but seek to 
come to terms and arrange a truce with them, putting for- 
ward the word of pacification.” Such men, he says, can 
acquire virtue only by toil But, he adds, toil itself 

cannot achieve virtue without the help of God and conse- 
quently “it is necessary that the soul should not ascribe to 
itself its toil for virtue, but that it should take it away from 
itself and refer it to God, confessing that not its own strength 
or power acquired nobility, but He who freely bestowed also 
the love of it,” for, he concludes, “only then does the soul 
begin to be saved, when the seat of anger has received reason 
as its charioteer, and toil has come to create in it, not self- 
satisfaction, but a readiness to yield the honor to God, the 
Bestower of the boon.” S'* From the entire context of the 
passage it is clear that what Philo means to say is that man 
by his mind, which is endowed with freedom implanted in 
it by God, can of himself through toil take the initial steps 
in the attainment of virtue. He cannot, however, through 
himself and by his own toil achieve virtue. Mere toil will not 
lead him to the desired end, if not accompanied by a realiza- 
tion that his ability to take the initial steps in the attain- 

5 » Leg. All. Ill, 46, 133-137. 

Ibid, III, 46, 134. 

5 * Ibid,, 135. 

5 3 Ibid,, 136. 

54 Ibid., 137* 



ment of virtue and to toil for it is in itself a gift of God. 
Once he realizes that, God will help him to attain virtue. 

In still another passage, speaking of the two natures in 
man, the irrational and the rational, he says, “Let us offer 
a noble and suitable prayer, which Moses offered before us, 
that ‘ God may open to us His own treasury ’ (Deut. 28: 12) 
and that sublime reason pregnant with divine illumination 
to which He has given the title of ‘heaven and that He may 
close up the treasuries of evil things,” ss concluding that God 
indeed “opens the treasury of good things but closes the 
treasuries of evil things.” Here, again, the implication is 
that sin is closed up by God and man chooses it entirely by 
his own free will, whereas virtue is left open by God so that if 
man makes an effort by his own free will to reach it, he can 
easily find it with the help of God. Prayer for divine help in 
guarding oneself against the choice of evil is also recom- 
mended by Philo in the following passage: “Pray then to 
God that thou mayest never become a leader in the wine 
song, never, that is, voluntarily take the first steps on the 
path which leads to indiscipline and folly.” ” 

The concept of grace is explicitly mentioned by him in his 
etymological explanation of the name Hannah. After ex- 
plaining that Samuel stands as a symbol for “ a mind which 
rejoices in the service and worship of God,” he says: “His 
mother is Hannah, whose name means ‘grace’ (xApis), for 
without divine grace (delas xaptros) it is impossible either to 
leave the ranks of mortality or to stay forever among the 
immortal.” By the mortal and the immortal here he 

55 IMd, 34, 104. 

5 ® Did.y 105. In § 104 Philo uses definitely good in the sense of virtue and evil in 
the sense of sin, whereas in § 105 good and evil are used by him respectively in the 
sense of reward and punishment. Here as elsewhere the two meanings of good and 
evil are used by Philo indiscriminately. Cf. above, n. 37. 

57 3a, 125, sa S 9 Ihid.^ 145, 



means those who deserve to be mortal or immortal as a re- 
sult of their actions, namely, the wicked and the righteous. 
Elsewhere he explains “grace” here as “the gift of the wis- 
dom of God” or the gift of “an inspired temper possessed 
by a God-sent fren2y.” 

What is required of man to be worthy of grace is discussed 
by him in another passage. Speaking of the mind that has 
been initiated into “ the holy mysteries,” that is, the mind 
that has learned to gain control over the passions and has 
also acquired a knowledge of God,®* he says that “it has 
been honored with the gift of quietude by God, who willed 
that it should be undistracted, never affected by any of the 
troublesome passions which necessities of the body engender, 
laying upon it through greed the domination of such 

This conception of a divine grace or help in the attainment 
of virtue to those who of themselves with the power given to 
them by God make an effort to attain it was evidently com- 
mon among the Jews, both Hellenistic and Palestinian, at the 
time of Philo. In the Wisdom of Solomon man is represented 
as having the power to love righteousness and the Lord and 
Wisdom and to be able to seek them and also as being able 
by his own power to keep the Law which constitutes the love 
of Wisdom.®® But still man is said not to be able to obtain 
Wisdom without the help of God and one of the conditions of 
obtaining the help of God, it is further said, is to know that 
Wisdom is a gift of God for which one has to pray and, if 
one prays for it, it will be given to him.®'^ In the Letter of 

Immut. % 5. 

Somn* 1,43, 254. Wisdom of Solomon i: i; 6: 12. 

Cf. above, p. 49. IhiL 6; 18. 

^3 Praem. ao, lai. Ibid. 8: 21. 

Ibid, 7; 7. On the doctrine of grace in Hellenistic Judaism see also A. D. 
Nock, St. Paul (Home University Library, 1938), p. 75, 



Aristeas the same view is expressed in the statements that 
“it is a gift of God to be able to do good actions and not the 
contrary,” that “the soul is so constituted that it is able 
by the divine power to receive all the good and reject the 
contrary ” and that it is not possible to acquire the virtue 
of temperance “unless God creates a disposition towards 
it.” A suggestion of this view of divine grace as supple- 
mentary to free will may perhaps be also discerned in one 
of the descriptions of the Pharisaic doctrine given by Jose- 
phus. More definitely is this combination of the element of 
divine grace with absolute free will expressed by the rabbis 
in many statements, of which the following ones are char- 
acteristic. Commenting on the verse, “Surely he scorneth 
the scorners, but he giveth grace unto the lowly,” they say: 
“To him who desires to contaminate himself doors are open 
(to go out and act according to his free choice); to one who 
desires to purify himself assistance will be given (from 
heaven),” ” for as they say elsewhere: “The evil impulse of 
man gains strength against him every day . . . and were it 
not for the help of the Holy One he could not prevail against 

While the ordinary run of men, according to Philo, could 
acquire virtue only by toil with the assistance of divine grace, 
there were certain persons, he maintains, to whom virtue was 
natural and they needed not to toil in order to attain it. Of 
such a nature, according to him, was Moses, “because he, 
being perfect, has no small or petty aims, nor any desire to 
moderate his passions, but goes so far as to cut off all passions 
everywhere,” and consequently he “received virtue easily 

Aristeasj 231, 


Ihid,, 237; cf. 238 and 226. 
7 ^ Cf. below, m, 99 and loc. 

7 “ Prov. 3: 34. 

73 Shahhat 104a and parallels. 

74 Sukkak 52b; Kiddushin 20b. 
7 s Leg. JIl III, 46, 134. 


and without toil from the hands of God.” Of such a 
nature was also Noah. “For should anyone ask why the 
prophet says that Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord 
God ” when as yet he had, so far as our knowledge goes, done 
no fair deed, we shall give a suitable answer to the effect that 
he is shown to be of an excellent nature from his birth.” 

So also were Melchizedek,^!* Abraham,*® Isaac,*' and Jacob.®' 
But this perfect nature with which all these perfect persons 
were endowed from their birth was itself a gift by divine 
grace, for, as he says in his discussion of Isaac: “Some even 
before their birth God endows with a goodly form and equip- 
ment, and has determined that they shall have a most ex- 
cellent portion.” *3 Whether this view that certain scriptural 
personages Were endowed from birth with a disposition to 
virtue meant also that the personages so endowed were ab- 
solutely sinless during their lifetime is not stated by Philo. 
All he says about them, as will have been noticed, is that by 
a certain natural endowment they could receive virtue easily 
and without toil. Elsewhere he makes the general statement 
that “ sin is congenital to every created being, even the best, 
just because it is created.” *■• Whether this statement in- 
cludes also those whom he describes as having been favored 
by God with a most excellent portion is not clear. In rab- 
binic literature, conflicting opinions are expressed as to the 
sinlessness of the Patriarchs.** Similarly with regard to 

^ mi., 13J. 

n Gen. 6: 8. ** Ihtd. 28, 85-87. 

78 Leg. All, III, 24, 77. Ibid. 29, 88-89. 

79 Ibid. 25, 79-81. Ibid. 28, 85. 

Ibid. 27, 83-84. Mos. II, 29, 147. 

(i) That they did sin: * Arakin 17a; Midrash Tehillim on Ps. 16:2; Ecclesiastes 
Rabbah on Eccles. 4: 3; Nedarim 32a and parallels. (2) That they did not sin; 
Mekilta^ Vayas 5 a\ 3 (W, p. 56b; F, p. 48a; HR, p. 163; ed. L, II, 106). Cf. S. 
Schechter, Some Aspects of Rabbinic neology^ 173; G. F. Moore, Judaism I, 468 
L. Ginzberg, the Legends of the Jews^ V, 220, n. 66; 228, n. 1 10. 



Moses, sometimes he is spoken of as having committed 
certain sins,*® whereas sometimes he is spoken of as if he 
were sinless.®'' Noah is represented as having sinned im- 
mediately after he had found grace in the sight of the Lord 
God.®® Whether those scriptural personages, such as the 
Patriarchs and Moses, who in rabbinic literature are repre- 
sented either as being predominantly virtuous or as being 
absolutely free of sin, were also considered by the rabbis, as 
they were by Philo, as being endowed by God from birth 
with an excellent nature which made it easy for them to 
acquire virtue is not clear. Such a rabbinic statement as 
that the Patriarchs were three exceptional men “over whom 
the Evil Impulse had no power” ®® may perhaps mean, as is 
the opinion of Philo, that they were endowed from birth with 
a special gift to resist evil; but it may also be only a descrip- 
tion of the fact that by their own free will and toil they sub- 
dued the Evil Impulse. 

It is in the light of this analysis of his conception of free 
will that a great many of the vague statements in which the 
homilies of Philo abound are to be understood. As an ex- 
ample I shall take his homily on the verse: “God cast a 
trance upon Adam and he went to sleep.” He takes this 
verse allegorically as referring to “mind” which “falls into 
a trance when it ceases to be engaged with objects appro- 
priate to it,” and from the words “ God cast a trance ” he 
infers that “this change and turning which he undergoes is 
not by himself but by God who ‘ casts it on him,’ that is, 
brings and sends it on him.” He then tries to prove this 
empirically. “For if the change were in our hands I should 

Yoma 86b and parallels. Cf. Ginzberg, op. ciLy VI, 109, n, 616 j 148, n. 889. 

Shabhat 55b; Sifre on Deut. 3a: 50, § 339, F, p. 141a; HF, p. 388. 

Fetirat Mosheh in Jellinek, Bet ka^Midrashy 1 , 118. Cf. Ginzberg, op. <*//., Ill, 
427; V, 186, n, 49. 

Buha Batra 17a. 

Gen. 2: 21. 



have recourse to it, when I wished, and when it was not my 
deliberate choice I should then continue unturned. But as 
it is, the change is actually repugnant to me, and many a 
time when wishing to entertain some fitting thought, I am 
drenched by a flood of unfitting matters pouring over me; 
and conversely when on the point of admitting a conception 
of something vile, I have washed the vile thing away with 
wholesome thoughts, God having by His grace poured upon 
my soul a sweet draught in place of the bitter one.” At 
first sight it would seem that contrary to what we have 
shown from Philo’s other statements, that according to him 
evil is never caused directly by God and that in the choice of 
good God is only an auxiliary cause, he says here that the 
choice of evil is not of our own free will but is caused by God 
and that similarly God forces upon us the good contrary to 
our free choice. But upon a closer examination of this pas- 
sage we shall find that it falls in with Philo’s views as we have 
found them elsewhere. 

To begin with, the statement here that unfitting matters 
pour over man even when he wishes to entertain some fitting 
thought is to be taken to refer to involuntary sins, which, 
according to Philo, as we have seen,®"* are committed by man 
as a result of the fact that owing to his past record he has been 
chosen by God’s will as an instrument of His judgment. Ac- 
cordingly the other statement here that “this change and 
turning which he undergoes is not by himself but by God ” 
is to be understood as referring not to sins directly caused by 
God but rather to those brought about incidentally as a re- 
sult of his having been chosen by God as the instrument of 
His judgment. Then the statement here about wholesome 
thoughts with which God in His grace washes away the con- 
ception of something vile which man is on the point of ad- 
s' Leg. All. II, 9, 31-31. ” Cf. above, n. 37. 



mitting is to be taken to refer to a case where the man in 
question has merited in the eyes of God that special assist- 
ance in the attainment of good which, according to the other 
passages we have discussed, God extends to those who are 
worthy of it. 

That this is the meaning of the passage is shown in the 
sequel. “Now every created thing must necessarily undergo 
change, for this is its property, even as unchangeableness is 
the property of God. But, while some, after being changed, 
remain so until they are entirely destroyed, others con- 
tinue so only so far as to experience that to which all flesh is 
liable, and these forthwith. This is why Moses says, ‘He will 
not permit the destroyer to come into your houses to smite 
you ’ (Exod. 12: 23): for He does indeed permit the destroyer 
— (‘destruction ’ being the change or turning of the soul) — 
to enter into the soul, that He may make it evident that 
what is peculiar to created things is there; but God will not 
let the offspring of the ‘seeing’ Israel be in such wise changed 
as to receive his death-blow by the change, but will force him 
to rise and emerge as though from deep water and re- 
cover.” The meaning of this passage is quite clear. That 
man should change from fitting thoughts to unfitting is 
necessary by the general scheme of God which made man’s 
soul consist of a rational and an irrational part. That some 
men should remain in their changed condition and lead a 
life of wickedness until they are destroyed is also in accord- 
ance with the divine scheme which endowed man with free- 
dom of choice. That God should not allow the Israelites to 
go to utter destruction by their wrongdoing is also in accord- 
ance with his view that God extends His grace and help to 
those who are worthy of salvation and that to Him the 
Israelites are worthy of such salvation, if not by their merit. 

Leg. All. II, 9, 33-34. 



then by the merit of their ancestors, who were especially 
elected by God, and whose merit is inherited by their off- 
spring. This last view refers to the principle of the “merit 
of the Fathers” which is dwelt so much upon in rabbinic 
theology,’'* and which goes back to the scriptural verse: 
“Only the Lord had a delight in thy Fathers to love them, 
and He chose their seed after them.” 

His view that God has reserved for himself the power to 
upset the laws of nature by working miracles has provided 
Philo, as we have seen, with a logical explanation for human 
freedom. Free will in man is nothing but a part of God’s own 
freedom, with which man is endowed by God. But the 
question inevitably arises how such freedom can be recon- 
ciled with the knowledge which God is said to possess of all 
things even before they happen. Philo does not raise this 
question directly, nor does he discuss it, but without much 
ado he asserts his belief both in the foreknowledge of God 
and in the free will of man, “for,” he says, “ God the maker 
of living beings knoweth well the different pieces of His own 
handiwork, even before He has thoroughly chiselled and con- 
summated them, and the faculties which they are to display 
in a later time, in a word their deeds and experiences.” 
Again: “So Moses says that God brought all the animals to 
Adam, wishing to see what appellations he would assign to 
them severally. Not that He was in any doubt — for to God 
nothing is unknown — but because He knew that He had 
formed in mortal man the natural ability to reason of his 
own motion, that so He himself might have no share in 
faulty action.” ” The same combination of divine fore- 
knowledge and human free will is also to be found in one of 

M Cf. Schecter, op. cit., 170-198; Moore, op. cih, I, 536-545- 

w Deut. 10: 15; cf. 4; 37; 7: 6-8. 

Leg. AIL III, 29, 88; cf. Opif. 52, 149. ” Opif. 52, 149- 



the descriptions of the Pharisaic doctrine given by Josephus, 
in which he says: “They hold that to act rightly or otherwise 
rests, indeed, for the most part with man, but that in each 
action Fate (eljuap/x^j'??) assists.” The term Fate, it has been 
shown, is used here by Josephus in the sense of Providence 
and consequently the statement here means that despite 
man’s free will God has a knowledge as well as a foreknowl- 
edge of his actions.™ The Pharisees, or rather the rabbis, 
speaking for themselves, say similarly that “everything is in 
the power of God except the fear of God ” and that “every- 
thing is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is given.”“* 

III. Conclusion, Influence, Anticipation 

Let us now summarize the result of our discussion of Philo’s 
theory of free will. Man as a part of nature, a microcosm of 
the macrocosm, is composed of a rational element which 

5® BelLJud, II, 8, 14, 163. In Antt, XIII, 5, 9, 172, the wording of the state- 
ment is different, 

99 Cf. note in Thackeray's translation ad ioc.y referring to Reinach; G. F. Moore, 
**Fate and Free Will in Jewish Philosophies according to Josephus," Harvard Theo- 
logical Reviewy aa (1929), 379 ff.; I. N. Simhoni, notes to his Hebrew translation of 
BelL Jud.y ad /or.; J. Klausner, Historiyyah Yisre'elity 11, 102. 

Goodenough, in his By Light y Lights p. 79, takes “ Fate" in this passage of Josephus 
in its literal sense and makes Josephus attribute to the Pharisees the “doctrine of 
predestination,” concluding; “It is . . . in harmony with the Sadducees that Philo 
consistently, in its Stoic form, repudiates determinism, to make man a free moral 
agent.” This is not a happy presentation of the case. The point at issue between 
the Pharisees and the Sadducees, even on the basis of the statements by Josephus, 
was not on the question of free will; the point at issue between them was on the 
question of divine providence. 

It is not impossible that in his use of the term “assists there is a 

suggestion of the doctrine of divine grace as supplementary to free will, which we 
have discussed above, nn. 68-74, Moore {op, clt,y p. 384) hesitatingly suggests a pos- 
sible origin of this term in the distinction found in Chrysippus between principal and 
adjuvant causes. The term gratia adjuvans occurs later in Christian theology (see 
Loofs, Leitfaden turn Studium der DogmengeschkhtCy Register y s.v., and cf. below, pp. 
459 f., nn, 2-9). 

Berakot 33b and parallels, 

M.AhtlUy 15. 


comes from the intelligible world and of a body which is 
created of matter. As in the world as a whole, these two 
elements in man are opposed to each other. But whereas in 
the world reason did by divine decree at the very beginning 
of the creation of the world gain dominance over the arrant 
and discordant matter, in man reason did not gain undis- 
puted dominance, for it is not only body that reason has to 
contend with in man but also a bodily soul, which was itself 
created by God and endowed by Him with certain powers 
which are irrational and opposed to the powers of reason. 
The conflict between these two sets of powers, the rational 
and irrational, therefore, continues in man throughout his 
lifetime. Left to themselves, the outcome of the conflict 
would depend upon the relative strength which these powers 
would happen to possess or would have developed in the 
course of man’s life. 

But God, who in His own case has reserved for himself the 
power of freedom to upset the laws of nature which He es- 
tablished in the world at the time of its creation, has endowed 
man with a similar power of freedom to upset the laws of 
nature to which he is subject. This is a sort of miracle which 
man can work in the economy of his own life analogous to the 
miracles which God can work and does work in the economy 
of the world as a whole. This miraculous power of free will 
with which the human mind is endowed extends both to the 
choice of evil and to the choice of good. But there is the 
following difference between these two kinds of choices. The 
choice of evil is left wholly to the power of man. The choice 
of good, however, is not left wholly to man’s power. Once 
man makes an effort to utilize the power granted to him in 
overcoming evil and in pursuing good, and once he recog- 
nizes that that power of his is a gift from God and that with- 
out that gift of God he would be helpless in his effort, and 



once he prays for further help from God, God will come to 
his assistance in his effort to overcome the evil and to attain 
the good. This is merited grace, which applies to all men. 
But in the case of some men, God endowed them even before 
their birth with free grace, and such free grace was even in- 
herited by their descendants. In such cases of inherited free 
grace, while those who are blessed with it are not wholly im- 
mune from sin, they will never be allowed by God to sink 
completely in sin. This freedom of action which man enjoys 
as a gift of God does not in any way, according to Philo, 
contravene the prescience of God. Despite the freedom of 
man to act as he chooses, God may still be said to have fore- 
knowledge of what man will do. 

In Philo’s conception of human freedom we have an 
adumbration of all the elements of the problem as it pre- 
sented itself to the minds of religious philosophers, whether 
Christian, Moslem, or Jewish, throughout the ages. Like 
Philo, they all as a rule start out with the assumption that 
there are laws of nature but that these laws were estab- 
lished in the world by God and that God has reserved for 
himself the freedom to upset these laws on certain occasions 
and for good reasons in the form of miracles. We have 
already quoted the views of some representative religious 
philosophers on this point.' 

It is this freedom of the will of God in His relations to man, 
which is assumed by all medieval philosophers, that has pro- 
vided them, as in Philo, with a rationale for their common 
belief in the free will of man. When God created Adam and 
implanted in him a mind, He implanted in him therewithal 
the freedom of choice whereby out of his own free will he 
disobeyed God and fell. But in Christianity there appeared 

* Cf. above, pp. 357 fF. 



the belief, given expression to by St. Augustine, that with his 
fall Adam was deprived of that freedom and that this lack of 
freedom was inherited by his descendants. If man was still 
spoken of as having free will, that freedom of the will had to 
come to him as a grace from God. In other words, the divine 
grace which according to Philo was only auxiliary to the 
initial freedom which man possessed became in the case of 
the descendants of Adam the sole basis of their freedom, a 
sort of freedom which in reality amounted to a theological 
determinism. Still the Philonic view has found expression in 
Christianity. St. Augustine himself, earlier in his life, before 
he adopted the view with which his name is associated, be- 
lieved that the descendants of Adam have retained to some 
extent that freedom of choice with which Adam was endowed 
by God and that, if they make an effort to exercise that free- 
dom in the right direction, God will further their effort by 
His adjuvant grace {gratia adjuvans).'^ “When anyone per- 
ceives that by himself he is not strong enough to rise up, let 
him pray for the help of the Liberator. Grace then will come, 
and it will forgive past sins, and help him who exerts him- 
self, and bestow the love of justice.* . . . Grace indeed brings 
about that we shall not only will to do rightly but also be able 
to do so, not by our own powers, but by the help of the 
Liberator. . . . For will is not enough, unless God also 
shows His mercy; but God, who calls to peace, does not show 
His mercy, unless will has preceded, forasmuch as ‘peace on 

* Cf. F. Loofs, Leitjaden zum Studium der Dogmengeschichte, 4th ed., pp. 360- 


s Expositio quarumdam propositionam ex Epistola ad Romanos, 13-18 (PL 35, 
2065) : cum se quisque cognoverit per seipsum surgere non valere^ imploret Liberatoris 
auxilium^ Venit ergo gratia quae donet peccata praeterita^ et conantem adjuvet^ et tru 
huat charitatem justitiae, 

* Ibid, (2066) : Gratia vero efficit ut non tantum velimm recte facere^ sed etiam pos^ 
simus; non viribus nostris^ sed Liberatoris auxilio. 



earth is to men of good will.’ ” * Thus Jerome, commenting 
on the verse, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she 
loved much,” * says: “From this we understand that it is not 
by our own power only that we do what we wish but also by 
the mercy of God, if only He gives assistance to our will,” i 
Similarly Cassianus sums up his discussion of free will in the 
statements that “there always remains in man free will 
which may either neglect or love the grace of God” * and 
that "the grace of God cooperates with our will favorably 
and in all things assists it, protects it and defends it.” ’ 

In connection with free will and grace there appear in 
Christianity also the other problems which we have found 
in Philo and the rabbis. As in Philo and the rabbis, in whom 
we have found either vague or contradictory statements as 
to the sinlessness of various scriptural personages, so also in 
Christianity there appeared the question whether there were 
men before the appearance of Christ who did not commit 
sin.” Of a similar nature is the problem in Islam as to 
whether the prophets were sinless.” Again as Philo, who held 
that the special grace of the Patriarchs was inherited by their 
descendants with the result that Israel would not be allowed 
by God to go to utter destruction by sin, so also in Chris- 

s Dediversis ^agstionihusLXXXIII^ 68, 5 (PL 40, 73) ; Parum esl enim mlle^ nUl 
Deus miser eatur: sed Deus non mlseretur^ qui adpacem vocat^ nisi volunias praeeesscrii; 
quia in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis, Cf. Luke 2:14. * Luke 7:47. 

7 Dialogus adversus Pelagianos (PL 23, 542 B) : Ex qua intelUgimus non nostrae 
solum esse potestatis Jacere quod velimus^ sed et Dei ckmentiae^ si nostram adjuvet 

* Joannis Cassiani Collationes XII (PL 49, 929 A) ; Et idcirco manet in homine 
semper liberum arbitrium^ quod gratiam Dei possit vel negligere vel amare, 

5 Ibid,^ XIII (932 a): Et ita semper gratia Dei nostro in honam partem cooperatur 
arbitrio^ atque in omnibus illud adjuvat^ protegit et defendit, Cf, St Augustine, Ziber 
contra collatorem III, 8 (PL 45, 1805), 

” Not only Pelagius but also Athanasius took the positive view on this question, 
Cf. Hagenbach, Bistory oj Doctrines^ §§ 108, n. 3; no, n. a. 

« E. Sell, the Faith oj I slam^ 3d ed., 1907, p. 244; F. A, Klein, the Religion of 
Islam^ 1906, p. 73; M. Muhammad Ali, the Religion oflskm^ 1936, p* 233, 



tianity Paul declares that “all Israel shall be saved” in the 
end because “ as touching the election, they are beloved for 
the fathers’ sake.” “ Then also as in Philo and the rabbis, 
simultaneously with the free will of man medieval philoso- 
phers affirmed the foreknowledge of God. But more than 
Philo and the rabbis they saw the difficulties involved in the 
assertion of these two propositions. It is this phase of the 
problem which led in Islam to the denial of freedom on the 
part of the orthodox Kalam and in Christianity, and to a 
lesser degree in Judaism, to a restriction of the meaning of 
freedom. The common tendency, however, was to maintain 
the two and to find a way of reconciling them. A formula 
which appears constantly in philosophy is that God’s knowl- 
edge is not causative. In Christianity among the Church 
Fathers this formula, as restated by John of Damascus, 
reads: “ God foreknows all things but does not pre-determine 
them.” In Arabic philosophy, the same formula, as 
quoted in the name of the Mutazilites, reads: “The knowledge 
of what is to come into existence is not the cause of its com- 
ing into existence, just as the knowledge of that which has 
come into existence is not the cause of its having come into 
existence.” The explanation offered in medieval philosophy 
in support of this principle is rather subtle, but it ultimately 
amounts to nothing more than the simple assertion ofPhilo and 
the rabbis that both God has foreknowledge and man is free. 

It is this traditional conception of God’s, as well as man’s, 
freedom of the will, which originated in the philosophy of 
Philo and was maintained throughout medieval philosophy, 
though occasionally somewhat modified, that was made the 
subject of attack by those who before Spinoza began to nib- 

« Rom. 1 1 : a6~2g. 

De Fide Orthodom II, 30 (PG 94, 969 B f.); nhv Tpdrtvciff/cct 6 oO 
Tc&vra dk Tpoopl^a. 

Judah ha-Levi, Cuzari V, 20; cf. Saadia, Emunot we-Ddot IV, 4. 



bie at traditional philosophy, and by Spinoza himself in his 
grand assault on it. The result, in the case of Spinoza, was 
a return to the classical conception of the immutability of 
the laws of nature, especially as it was conceived by Aristotle, 
ere it was modified by Philo’s introduction of the principle of 
the changeability of these laws through the miraculous in- 
tervention of God. The God of Spinoza, like the God of 
Aristotle, acts by what traditional philosophy would call the 
necessity of His own nature but which Spinoza himself de- 
fines as true freedom. Man also, according to him, has not 
that power to overcome his passions which traditional phi- 
losophy would call the power of one’s free will; but still he 
himself, like Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, speaks of man’s 
ability to overcome his passions by knowledge and thereby 
become free. It is not until the entire conception of immu- 
table laws of nature was called into doubt that absolute un- 
determined freedom of the human will, like that asserted 
by Philo, makes its reappearance in philosophy. But the 
ground for the questioning of the immutability of the laws 
of nature is not the rediscovery of a God who like the God 
of Philo and his followers is endowed with a miracle-working 
power. The historical background of this new view is to be 
found in the ancient Epicurean denial of causality.